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!





  1. Wow. What an amazing day - and so many details! You look so happy and beautiful! Congratulations

  2. I have been looking forward to this post for so long! Congratulations to you both!! I'm looking forward to the accompanying posts now I've seen the teasers

  3. Congratulations Caroline! This looks like one amazing wedding and you looked absolutely beautiful!

  4. Congratulations Caroline. Looks like you had a wonderful day in beautiful surroundings. That bouquet is stunning! x

  5. I noticed your name change so I had to come over and have a look at the wedding photos! It all looks amazing and you look so beautiful.

  6. Hiya, I can see you had cattle name cards for the tables, could I ask where you got them from please? As I am thinking of this idea for my wedding. Thanks, April

  7. hi April - I just looked them up on Wikipedia! I think this was the page I used:
    Hope you have a fabulous wedding!


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