Sunday 31 July 2016

DIY Wedding: Personalised M&M Favours and Placecards

Traditionally at weddings, guests are given little packets of sugared almonds. Apparently there's a reason for this: almonds are slightly bitter but with the sugary coating, they represent the hope that married life will be more sweet than bitter. It's also traditional to give five almonds exactly, as the number five can't be divided so symbolises a strong bond between the couple.

Having said that, I've been to enough weddings where the sugared almonds get left behind - I'm not sure how many people actually like eating them. We weren't on a tight budget for our wedding but I didn't want to spend money on things that we didn't feel were worthwhile, so we considered not giving out wedding favours at all.

We also considered charity wedding favours, as we wanted to support the Young Epilepsy charity and I knew that some charities sell kits where you can make placecards for the table and each one has a little pin badge, like the pink ribbon breast cancer logo. At the time Young Epilepsy only had plastic wristbands and we weren't sure if they would be suitable so we decided instead to make a donation to Young Epilepsy which we put on our gift list and wedding website, as this would raise awareness and we could give more money this way.

I decided that I wanted to combine the guest placecard  with a little gift or wedding favour, and for it to be homemade, at least partly. I came across a website where you could personalise M&Ms and they had a 25% discount and when I explained to my fiancé, he loved the idea.

We could get M&Ms in our wedding colours, printed with pretty much whatever we wanted. We wanted to go for a cow theme so decided to have a little clipart cow printed on half the M&Ms and our names printed on the other. They can't print on black so we had white and purple (as the bridesmaids dresses were purple) and then separately went to the M&M World shop in Leicester Square (easy enough as we both work in London) to buy a big bag of black M&Ms. They have sweets in every colour imaginable and you can mix your own combination and we couldn't find anywhere online selling just black ones so my fiancé went and did it himself.

I bought clear plastic 'pillow' gift boxes for about £12 for 100 on Ebay, so we weighed the M&Ms and worked out how many we could have in each packet, and spent an evening filling the packets. We used my die cutting machine to cut out gift tags from purple card and my mother-in-law, who does beautiful calligraphy, kindly agreed to write the name of each guest on the label. I then took some purple ribbon, which I already had in my craft cupboard, and tied it around each M&M packet, attached the name label and used a pair of scissors to curl the ends.


 We bought the M&Ms as a bulk bag of 1.5kg which cost £85 before the 25% discount; you can also buy a bulk bag of 1.5kg and 100 pillow boxes for £105 but I don't think they offered this at the time and in any case it was cheaper to get the boxes from Ebay.  You can also buy plastic hearts which are £119 along with the 1.5kg of M&Ms and we might have considered this had they been available at the time. 

I costed them out and we made each one for about £1 which is really good - if you look at websites selling wedding favours you can easily pay £2-£3 for nice ones, which doesn't sound a lot but when you multiply that by 75 guests - we ended up spending around £75 rather than £225 which is good!

 Each packet was left on the dining table on each place setting so guests knew which was their seat. I think some people ate the M&Ms at the table and other people took them home - I hope they liked them, I think these were a bit quirky and fit really well with the theme of our wedding - if you want to read more about it, click here!

Saturday 30 July 2016

Making My Own Wedding Cake

cow print wedding cake
Photo by Lisa Dawn Photography
Cake by the bride and her sister!
Copyright Caroline Makes dot Net

When my husband and I were planning our wedding, I told him I really wanted to make our wedding cake myself - to say he wasn't keen was an understatement. Even though I'd made my friend Ros' wedding cake last year and really enjoyed the experience, he was worried I would get too stressed and be taking on too much.

So I was wondering what to best do when my sister told me she'd like to make the cake as her gift to us - which I wasn't expecting at all - but that she was a bit nervous at taking on such a big cake. Which gave me the perfect opportunity to suggest we do it between us!

I knew from the start that the cake itself would be quite easy and quick to decorate as there was really only one design of cake we could have, as our last name is Cowe - pronounced cow - a cow print cake! It sounds silly but I think the cake overall looked really elegant, and as we only had a few other cow print touches (the whole wedding wasn't full-on cow print) it worked really well.

My husband loves chocolate cake and also really likes fruit cake though I'm not as keen on fruit cake myself, so we decided to have each layer a different type of cake - fruit on the bottom, chocolate in the middle and lemon on the top.

We decided that for ease of transportation and being able to prepare the fruit cake in advance, my sister Clare would do the top and bottom of the cake and I would do the middle.

She'd just moved house and was renovating the new house so between an unfamiliar oven, and effectively a lot of building work going on, and a sister who kept asking whether she'd done the practice cake or not yet (to be fair she did leave it quite last-minute as she had so much else going on - unbeknown to me, she had also just discovered she was pregnant!) she did a brilliant job.

Clare decided to buy the fruit cake from an online shop and cover it with marzipan and decorate it herself, and then bake the top layer the day before the wedding and decorate that too.

I made a 9 inch chocolate cake for my middle layer using the same BBC Good Food recipe I'd done for Ros's cake as it worked so well, and once again the cake was beautifully moist and chocolatey. It came out of the oven perfectly, and I made a chocolate ganache buttercream which I spread round the sides and over the top, and then covered the cake with fondant.

This tilting turntable from Lakeland which my mum gave me for my birthday came in handy too:

I baked the cake first thing on the Thursday morning (getting up at about 6.30am) and left it to cool while I went out to collect the wedding dress, and decorated it in the afternoon. We then travelled from Surrey to Wiltshire on the Friday and had a wedding rehearsal and left the cake, along with various other things, at the venue, and got married on the Saturday afternoon. The cake lasted really well and was still really good when we ate some of the leftovers on the Sunday!

When I was thinking about the cow print decoration I knew I wanted the black patches to be different sizes and shapes but somehow still uniform - to not look like they had been cut out haphazardly and to have neat, sharp edges to make sure it looked professional.

I came across a 'make your own cookie cutter kit' from Lakeland which was absolutely perfect. It was reduced at the time from £9.99 to £4.99 and is currently £2.99; I bought two so I could send one to my sister. It was really easy to bend the metal strips into different cow print shapes and secure the ends with the tape provided, and the cookie cutters worked perfectly on the black fondant (I used Renshaw).

Each cake had a piece of ribbon around the bottom and another around the edge of the cake board in the exact same shade as our bridesmaid dresses; I got the ribbon from Fantastic Ribbons. We also had to purchase cake boards, cardboard boxes to store and transport the cake, and I bought this cake stand from Windsor as I wanted one where each tier of the cake would be separated, so you could see the cow print on the top.

We thought about having our names laser cut out of plastic as a cake topper - similar to the one Ros and James had, and we were going to order one over the internet until I decided I wanted something home made. We investigated whether we could make our own using my Silhouette die cutter but realised it would only cut thick card and not any kind of thin plastic, so decided instead that we would have a more traditional bride and groom cake topper - but with an untraditional twist: two cows!

I've made several animals from fondant before including a cow and a sheep so I knew I could easily make two cows to go on top. This link gives step-by-step instructions.

I gave the groom a purple tie to match the wedding colours and bought a Barbie wedding dress and gave the veil from it to the bride!

The cake was absolutely delicious, and we found that with a 12 inch bottom, 9 inch middle and 6 inch top cake we had plenty to feed 75 guests with some leftover, which we gave to the neighbours in our street.

 Here are some of the pictures our professional photographers, Lisa and Scott from Lisa Dawn Photography, took on our wedding day. I want to say a big thank you to my sister Clare again who has said "never again" when it comes to making a wedding cake, but I think she did a fantastic job and it meant a lot to me that my sister and I could make the cake together.

cow print wedding cake

cow wedding cake toppers

cow print wedding cake

Friday 29 July 2016

Restaurant review: All Bar One, Bishopsgate, London

I wasn't particularly impressed with a lunch I had at All Bar One on Bishopsgate before I went off to get married. I went with half a dozen colleagues and we had a large table reserved for us near the bar. There was plenty of choice on the menu and I decided that because my wedding wasn't far away I was going to have a salad. I ordered the superfood salad, which is vegan but you can add halloumi, chicken or prawns for a few pounds extra so I had the prawns. The salad consists of mixed leaves, giant couscous, pomegranate and lentil tabbouleh, butternut squash and beetroot, with a pineapple, lemongrass and ginger dressing.

I was so busy talking to my friends that I didn't really pay much attention to the menu and enjoyed the salad, but it was only when I left and chatted to a friend who had ordered the same thing that we realised our salads had no butternut squash and no pomegranate - pretty much half the main ingredients! The squash would have made the salad much more filling too so it was quite strange and annoying both that and the pomegranate (one of the more expensive ingredients) had been left out and what I had was a pretty plain salad. It didn't seem worth going back to the bar after we had left and complaining as there wasn't much they could do, and I wasn't even sure if they would give us our money back as we hadn't complained at the time.

Then I spoke to another colleague and discovered her chicken and avocado salad had plenty of other ingredients in it but was missing the avocado too! The bar wasn't particularly busy that lunchtime so maybe one of the chefs was having an off day, but unfortunately it's put me off going back. The rest of my colleagues, who did get what they had ordered, did really enjoy their meals at least!

Thursday 28 July 2016

Peaches and Cream Summer Sandcastle Cake

Copyright Caroline Makes dot Net

I bought a sandcastle cake mould from Lakeland two years ago and only used it once, when I made this pineapple and coconut sandcastle cake. The uncomfortably but beautifully hot weather we've had for the past week or so inspired me to dig it out again and to come up with another summery flavour for the cake. I decided not to decorate it as a lot of fondant or buttercream is not always a great idea in hot weather, and I wanted the natural colour of the cake to reflect the colour of the sandcastle.

I wanted the cake to be light and moist so decided to make it peaches and cream flavour. I used tinned peaches as I had some in the fridge to use up, and it meant I could use the peach juice from the can as well, but if you want to use fresh peaches I'd use three or four peeled and chopped, and for the liquid element, perhaps the Granini Peach Drink that's made using peach puree (available in Tesco and Waitrose) or peach-flavoured squash, made up quite strong.

Peaches and Cream Cake - an original recipe by Caroline Makes, for Caroline Makes.Net

You need:
Cake Release spray for greasing the mould
200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 cup peach juice or squash
about 200g peaches, either tinned or fresh, peeled and sliced if necessary
275g self raising flour
I used the Lakeland sandcastle silicone mould for this cake, which doesn't seem to be available on their site any more - if you want to purchase one, keep an eye on Ebay, or you can use any shaped cake tin or mould.
Preheat the oven to 150C. Spray the sandcastle mould with Cake Release or similar.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer then mix in the eggs.

Add the peach juice and mix again. Finally add the sliced peaches and the flour and gently fold in.

 Stand the sandcastle mould in a large roasting tin and pour the cake mixture into the mould. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour.

Allow to cool in the mould and then turn out onto a cooling rack.

 This was a beautifully light and moist cake; so moist in fact it started to break as I took it out of the mould before it was completely cooled, which will teach me to be more patient next time!

I'm sending this to Love Cake, hosted by Ness at JibberJabberUK; her theme is garden party and this cake would make a great centrepiece.

Love Cake July 2016
I'm also sharing this with the Food Calendar linky on Charlotte's Lively Kitchen as it's summer holiday season!
Link up

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Homemade Triple Chocolate Ice Cream with Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker

My husband loves ice cream at any time of year but especially in summer; if I buy a tub he has some for dessert every evening until it's gone. So I suspect he had an ulterior motive when he bought me an ice cream maker at Christmas - and was probably quite disappointed that I didn't get around to using it until July!

With a wedding to plan I was too busy and also trying to lose weight, and I don't really like to eat ice cream unless it's hot anyway. I'd promised him that I would use the ice cream maker after the wedding so got it out as soon as I came back from honeymoon - it was probably a
good thing I hadn't used it previously or
 I definitely wouldn't have lost any weight before the wedding!

The ice cream maker is easily attached onto the Kitchenaid but making the ice cream does take some forward planning. You have to put the bowl from the ice cream maker in the freezer for at least 15 hours and for the recipe I used, make something in a saucepan, make something else in a bowl, combine the two and return to the saucepan then put in the fridge for at least 8 hours. After that you put it in the ice cream maker - you don't actually put it in the freezer, as beating the mixture in the pre-frozen bowl with the Kitchenaid makes a soft scoop ice cream, and you then store it in the freezer where it will become more solid. But each stage and the chilling time in between means this is pretty much a three-day job - unless you always keep the ice cream maker bowl in the freezer in which case it's then two days.

After all that I was hoping the ice cream would be worth it, and it was - my husband, who is something of a connoisseur of chocolate ice cream, said it was absolutely amazing. It also makes a good quantity - almost 2 litres - so if you do go to all this effort it will last a while.

This is the recipe for the triple chocolate ice cream which I adapted to use an equal mixture of single cream and milk as you can't buy 'half and half' in the UK, and instead of a chopped 50g bar of milk chocolate at the end I used a handful of Hershey's mini kisses (which you can't buy in the UK either but I had bought some when I was in America). You might be able to adapt the recipe for your own ice cream maker or even to freeze the mixture and churn it by hand but this recipe is specifically written for a Kitchenaid.

You need:
450ml whipping cream
30g plain chocolate, chopped (the recipe specified 'extra dark')
30g milk chocolate, chopped (the recipe specified 'dark')
225ml single cream
225ml full fat milk (instead of the single cream and milk the recipe specified 450ml half and half)
230g sugar
40g cocoa powder
8 egg yolks
4 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
handful of Hershey's mini kisses or 50g milk chocolate, chopped

In a small saucepan heat 120ml of the whipping cream, the plain chocolate and the 30g milk chocolate until the chocolate has melted, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In another pan, heat the half-and-half or equivalent over a medium heat until not quite simmering, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Using the metal whisk on the Kitchenaid, whisk the egg yolks and gradually add the sugar and the cocoa powder. Gradually pour in the chocolate mixture and the half-and-half mixture, until well combined.

Return this mixture to a saucepan and heat over a medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture is just simmering. Do not allow it to boil.

Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in the remaining whipping cream, vanilla and salt. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

When you're ready to make the ice cream, take the bowl out of the freezer and attach to the Kitchenaid according to the instructions. Turn it on to the slowest speed and carefully pour the ice
cream mixture into the bowl.

 Leave it running at the slowest speed for 15 minutes, adding the chocolate chips for the last two minutes; this will give you soft scoop ice cream that you can eat straight away. The rest of the ice cream can be frozen in an airtight container and served at a harder consistency later.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Afternoon Tea Greetings Card

I made this as a birthday card but it would work for any kind of greeting or even as an invitation to afternoon tea.

I had a set of 6x6 printed papers with different tea and cake motifs; on this one, the background pictures are quite large which limits what else I can put on the card as it would make the design too busy. I have some tea cup stickers I got from Paperchase that I have used several times before, and decided this would work in the centre of the card, mounted on a pink die-cut shape to create a distinction from the background.

Monday 25 July 2016

Meal Planning Monday Week 30 2016

Copyright Caroline Makes dot Net

I might not be home for that many meals this week and expect a few last minute changes to the meal plan so here goes!

Monday - working late on a project so will probably grab something on the way home, my husband might go to his mum's

Tuesday - always have a meeting til 6.30 on a Tuesday now which means I will never get home before 8 and need something quick for dinner but also something my husband will eat. He can have a frozen pizza and I'll have some leftover pasta bake from Sunday.

Wednesday - Potentially today or Friday visiting a member of my husband's family in hospital so we will grab some food on the way home

Thursday - probably an early lunch/brunch (maybe a bacon sandwich as it's easy) then away for the rest of the day at a funeral (unrelated to the family member above)

I just realised I forgot to put down Friday when I did this post initially! We are now doing the hospital visit on Friday.

Saturday - home alone, my husband is at Silverstone with his dad.
Lunch: mackerel in mustard sauce on toast
Dinner: the spicy seafood chorizo paella from Inspiralized I was going to cook last week but didn't for me, gammon and chips for him if he's home in time Need to update this as we had this on Wednesday.

Lunch: with friends who are now coming round to our house and we will do a barbecue
Dinner: chicken/ cauliflower tikka I was going to make last week but didn't, unless it's really hot and we want to barbecue

This is a blog hop

Sunday 24 July 2016

Review: The Beckford Arms, Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire

I spent the night before and the night after my wedding at the Beckford Arms in Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire, and it was wonderful. In fact it was so good we are seriously considering going back for our first anniversary next year.
We got married in June at the Larmer Tree Gardens near Salisbury – a perfect location. The gardens are beautiful and we had an amazing wedding.
I wanted to find somewhere to stay both on our wedding night, and the night before where I could have plenty of room to get ready with my bridesmaids on the day. I can’t actually remember how I came across the Beckford Arms – the event coordinator at the Larmer Tree provided a list of suggested accommodation but none of them quite fit what I wanted or were unavailable. I think I found the Beckford Arms from browsing websites of photographers who had posted pictures they had taken at weddings at the Larmer Tree, and spotting in a few of them that the brides were getting ready at the Beckford Arms. So I had a look at the website and it seemed ideal.

Photo by Lisa Dawn Photography

The Beckford Arms describes itself as a “traditional and stylish country pub” but it is like a small boutique hotel. It has 8 bedrooms and two lodges (which are listed separately, not under the ‘rooms & rates’ section, so don’t miss this!). Rooms are from £95 for a small double to £130 for a large double, and a child’s camp bed can be added to the large room on request (my bridesmaid, her partner and daughter who was my flower girl stayed here). My other bridesmaids were also in the same hotel and they really liked their rooms. There’s a big garden with seating outside and a living room with newspapers and books that can be used by guests in the hotel, and my dad sat here for a while when he was waiting for me to finish getting ready.

I stayed in one of the two lodges which are called the Splenden Pavillions. It was lovely, though I will get the slightly negative stuff out of the way first. The Beckford Arms’ website, which has been updated since I originally booked, says they are a 15 minute stroll from the main hotel, but on the actual booking section it says the lodges are “just a 2 minute walk from the Beckford” which is utterly ridiculous. When we arrived we were expecting them to be next door – but a member of staff took us to the car park and told us to follow her and she drove us to the lodge.

It was a good 5 minute drive, and I think you could walk it in 15 minutes (maybe 20 at a slower pace), but I wouldn’t have wanted to walk it at night as it’s along a relatively fast road (and then up a track), there is no pavement and not much in the way of lighting. In fact when my fiancé left me in the lodge, as he was spending the night before the wedding somewhere else, he made me promise not to walk back to the main building where I was having dinner and to call one of my bridesmaids to come and pick me up.

This led to the second issue: absolutely no mobile phone reception. We were told by the member of staff when we checked in that there was no phone reception, which we hadn’t known about before (I don’t think it says that on their website). You can get on the wifi, which means it is possible to send text messages between iPhones, so I was able to contact one bridesmaid but not the other two, as they had different phones. I couldn’t contact the other two at all – there is no landline in the lodge either so the only option is to go back to the main hotel. Luckily we figured this out before my fiancé left, so he drove me back to the main building, where phone reception was patchy but at least it existed, and I was able to contact one bridesmaid and ask her to come and get me from the lodge when it was time for dinner, and then we went back to the lodge afterwards. It was a bit odd when my fiancé departed, leaving me with no car and no phone signal – I don’t know what you would do in an emergency!

But other than that, our stay was absolutely perfect. The Fonthill estate has existed for centuries and has a lot of history; guests in the lodges or pavilions included the poet Byron and the painter Turner. The lodge is very spacious, with a double bed, ensuite bathroom with shower and freestanding rolltop bath on a mezzanine level upstairs. Downstairs, there is a sofa and coffee table, a small dining table and chairs, a wood burning stove (which I didn’t use) and a kitchen area – you can ask for breakfast items to be left in the fridge to cook your own breakfast, or eat breakfast in the hotel.

 I opted to make my own, as I had the hairdresser arriving at 8am in the morning, but only managed to eat some bread and butter as I had butterflies already – it was my wedding day after all! I looked in the fridge and saw I had been given orange juice, tea and coffee, bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes, which all looked really good. Outside, there is a table and chairs and a lovely view. Children and dogs are not allowed to stay in the lodges which means they are very peaceful and tranquil – though I had people coming and going all day!

The lodges are not cheap, at £175 a night during the week and £195 on weekends, with a two night minimum stay, but my husband and I absolutely loved it and it would make a lovely mini-break, if you let people know in advance you have no phone signal and they will have to email you instead!
The night before my wedding, I had dinner with my bridesmaids, their partners and my parents. The Beckford Arms gave us a private room and our waitress was lovely, very understanding that some people were late because of heavy traffic in London and creating a special dish for one bridesmaid who was vegan. My flowergirl was quietly given a picture to colour in and coloured pencils, and brought an ice cream sundae for dessert with little bowls of sweets for her to add toppings herself.
I only had a main course – fish and chips, as I’d been on a pre-wedding diet for far too long and it didn’t really matter by this point – but most people had dessert as well and the food was pronounced very good, apart from one guy who had the steak who wasn’t very impressed, but on the whole we had a lovely meal.
I returned to my lodge (by car – I wasn’t walking that far at night!) and took myself off to bed, knowing that the next day when I woke up, it would be my wedding day!
Photo by Lisa Dawn Photography










Saturday 23 July 2016

Our Wedding at the Larmer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire

Surely these are the ingredients of a perfect wedding: your friends and family, a beautiful and unusual venue, a garden reception with croquet and peacocks, a string quartet to walk down the aisle to, fantastic food (homemade cake followed by a posh barbecue and a trio of desserts), drinks that flowed, an amazing band, photobooth, racing simulator, alpacas, marshmallows over an open fire and fairy lights in the garden.
We had all those things and more when I got married at the Larmer Tree Gardens in Wiltshire in June. I’m originally from Salisbury so we were going to look at wedding venues both around there and near where we live now on the outskirts of London, but we took one look at the Larmer Tree – the first potential venue we visited – and knew it was the one.
The gardens were created in 1880 and were the first privately owned gardens to be opened to the public – they are now recognised by English Heritage as a Garden of National Importance.

All photos on this page are courtesy of Lisa Dawn Photography unless otherwise noted

Larmer Tree gardens wedding

The gardens takes their name from a magnificent landmark tree (probably a Wych Elm) that stood on this site as early as the 10th century. King John (1189-1216) hunted in this area many times and tradition states he met with his huntsmen under the branches of the Larmer Tree.
The focal point is a small Roman Temple. In England, you can’t legally get married outside – it has to be inside a building that has a marriage licence. That’s why people who want to get married anywhere from their back garden to while sky diving have to have a ceremony in a registry office first. So I’ve never been to an outdoor wedding and I’m not sure I know anyone else who has.
But the Roman Temple at the Larmer Tree has a wedding licence – you can only fit six people inside, so the registrar and their assistant and the two witnesses must be inside, and the bride and groom on the steps. Their guests can then be seated on folding chairs on the grass for a beautiful outdoor wedding (complete with peacocks wandering past).

Larmer Tree gardens wedding
There’s also a larger structure, the Lower Indian Room, that allows about 12 people to be seated inside while the rest of the guests are outside, but we preferred the Roman Temple.

This is the Singing Theatre, where we had the string quartet and took some photos dancing up there.

Larmer Tree gardens wedding

You do need a PA system if you are in the Temple so all your guests can hear your vows. Unfortunately the company we hired and paid to provide the PA system forgot to turn up, so not everyone could hear properly! I was furious when we realised the next day but there was nothing that could be done afterwards, and the company did apologise, insisting this had never happened before, and refunded our money. I’m tempted to name and shame them but they are only a small company so that could put them out of business, and I’m pretty sure that after this they will be a lot more careful and not let this happen again.

We had two readings: Taylor Mali's "Falling in love is like owning a dog" (or a cat, in my opinion) which was quite light hearted, and then slightly more serious, "I will be here" by Stephen Curtis Chapman", read beautifully by two of my school friends.

Larmer Tree gardens wedding
The Larmer Tree has an in-house caterer who you have to use, but the choice of food is amazing – a long list of dishes for starters, main and dessert, plus things like an Indian banquet, a buffet or a barbecue.

Larmer Tree gardens wedding

My husband loves to barbecue so we knew straight away this was what we wanted, for a slightly more informal outdoor wedding. It’s still what I’d call a ‘posh’ barbecue – the meal takes place inside the purpose-built pavilion (consisting of two large rooms, one for the meal and one for dancing).

Larmer Tree gardens wedding

We had tables with lavender centrepieces, purple and white chair covers (from All Covered Up) and the usual seating plan, but when it came to eat, each table went outside to the terrace in turn and were served whatever food they wanted (with lots of people going back for seconds!).

We had local pork sausages, steak, chicken kebabs, tuna steaks and Dorset spelt risotto balls, plus potato wedges, four different salads and homemade breads. Dessert, which was served at the table, was a trio: Eton mess, lemon roulade and chocolate and Tia Maria cake. Unfortunately the day was so overwhelming I found I was barely able to eat more than a few bites, but everyone said the food was delicious.

We served the wedding cake in the gardens as part of the afternoon reception, though there was plenty left for it to be put out again in the evening. We knew people would get the munchies while they were dancing so we also arranged for there to be bacon sandwiches at 11pm (halloumi for the vegetarians)! And there was a fire pit outside so we provided skewers and marshmallows for people to toast.

Photo by Lisa Morton

Photo by Lisa Morton
The Larmer Tree printed our table names for us and they looked great. As our surname is Cowe we decided to name each table after different types of cow!

cow wedding

You can see some table confetti in the photo above; I made part of that myself and will write a separate blog post about it.

The Larmer Tree also printed our table plan for us and put it on an easel:

We had simple table centrepieces of lavender pot plants. We chose lavender because the area where we live is known for its lavender fields and we had chosen purple for the colour scheme, and purple is the colour of the Young Epilepsy charity. We have a family member who suffers from epilepsy and decided to make a donation on behalf of our wedding guests.

lavender table centrepiece

The lavender plants, my bouquet and my bridesmaids', the men's buttonholes which were sprigs of lavender and some thank you bouquets for our mums were all provided by Judith Searles Flowers.

purple lilac wedding bouquet

Here's the order of service card that I made, similar to the invitations that I already blogged about.

In the afternoon we opted for finger sandwiches rather than canapes, which were circulated on trays (and occasionally stolen by peacocks!); and my friend Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker made two types of cupcakes, which were brilliant. They were actually mistaken for being from a professional bakery! I bought the wire cake stands from Amazon.

purple wedding cupcakescow print oreo wedding cupcakes

The wedding cake itself was also served in the afternoon, and merits a whole blog post in itself. I wanted to make or at least be involved in making my own wedding cake, but was persuaded that I wouldn’t have time to do the whole thing myself. I also knew transport would be difficult as we were driving down from Surrey in my husband’s Aston Martin and wouldn’t have been able to fit three separate tiers in the boot!

At least he didn't need to hire a car...

His parents were having to transport a lot for us (including my wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses and the men’s suits) as it was, so I knew logistically it would be very difficult. Luckily my sister volunteered to make the cake with me, so she did the top and bottom tiers and I did the middle and made the topper to go on top. Here’s a sneak preview – my new surname is Cowe in case you are wondering why it is cow print!

cow wedding cake
cow wedding cake

cow wedding cake

Our photographers were Lisa and Scott from Lisa Dawn Photography who took the beautiful photos you can see on this page.
We hired a string quartet, the Keysworth Quartet, who played a lively mixture of classical and modern music (including the Star Wars theme tune!). They accompanied me as I walked down the aisle, playing Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years. I can’t stand the Twilight films that made it famous but I loved the lyrics: I have loved you for a thousand years; I’ll love you for a thousand more.

Keysworth string quartet Larmer Tree
I'm a little bit obsessed by alpacas so arranged for a few to come along to the wedding to meet the guests and provide some entertainment and photo opportunities! These are from Alpaca Adventures in Shaftesbury and were the same ones I went trekking with on my hen weekend.

alpaca wedding
The string quartet also played during the signing of the register and as we exited under a shower of confetti (dried rose petals I bought from Ebay) and continued playing during the afternoon reception. Pimms, Prosecco and other drinks flowed unlimited throughout the two hours though I was so busy posing for photos and speaking to people that I only drank a couple of sips!

I stayed at the Beckford Arms the night before the wedding and also on my wedding night; we had a lodge (separate from the main building) which gave us lots of space to get ready. I will review the Beckford Arms in another post; I highly recommend staying here especially if you are getting married at the Larmer Tree!
Beckford Arms wedding
I will also be writing blog posts about the various things I made for the wedding, including:
our place cards and favours for the guests, which were personalised M&Ms:
Photo by Julianne Poston
Photo by Julianne Poston
 In the evening, we had a photo booth from Funky Photobooth for our guest book (and for people to have some fun); I will also write a separate post about this.
We also hired two racing simulators from Funtasia to give people who didn't want to drink or dance something to do. It went down very well with the teenage boys!
The band was absolutely brilliant - we had The Hotrox perform, which was probably the first thing we decided in the whole wedding planning process. The Hotrox CEO Alex Pick is my husband's cousin and a very talented musician and songwriter. He doesn't perform with the band often now he has other things going on but of course did for our wedding which was really magical - and our friends were all very impressed. It was really special having him sing the song for our first dance as well: we chose Ed Sheeran's "Thinking out loud".
The Hotrox wedding band
My dress, veil and the bridesmaid dresses came from Toni Bridal in Hackbridge, Surrey. Don't my bridesmaids look beautiful? The flower girl's dress is from Monsoon; it came with a pink ribbon and flower so I switched them for purple ones I bought from Ebay.
Hair by Natalie Forsbrey and makeup by Olga Tayor, both via Bridal Treats
wedding hair and makeup
The men's suits came from Stephen Bishop Suiting in Woking; they were very good about getting us the suits as early as possible as we had to get them to people as far apart as Wiltshire and Watford.
Gail, the venue coordinator at the Larmer Tree, was absolutely brilliant, both in the run-up to the wedding and on the day itself; she did everything from pinning on the buttonholes to explaining to the bridesmaids where to walk to fetching me a pair of white trainers I'd asked her to stash somewhere for when my shoes started to hurt towards the end of the evening! 
Here are a few more of our wedding pics:
Larmer Tree wedding
Larmer Tree wedding
Larmer Tree wedding
Larmer Tree wedding
It was the most amazing, wonderful and memorable day then we went off for a fantastic honeymoon in Miami and the Galapagos Islands afterwards!