How to plan the perfect country wedding

Organising a wedding can seem like an unbelievably daunting task. Who to invite, who pays for what and what to wear are just a few issues facing newly engaged bride and grooms-to-be.

We speak to Annabel Beeforth from Love My Dress to get her tips on how to pull off the perfect country wedding (main photograph by Hanson Leatherby).

In today’s world, how should the cost of a wedding be spread between the bride and groom and their families?

I have to say that in today’s world, there’s really no ‘should’ involved. Each couple and their family know their own unique circumstances better than anyone else so whilst you might need some frank conversations at the outset, the cost and the division of that cost really is a private matter. Some families both contribute, some pay for certain elements and some pay for the entire event. There really aren’t any rules these days.

How much should the bridesmaids have bought for them? The list could be endless, dress, shoes, hair, make up, gift…

There’s that word ‘should’ again! Each wedding is very different and it depends not only on the budget but the number of maids involved. If you set yourself a ‘bridesmaid budget’ for example then splitting that figure between two bridesmaids is obviously going to give a different answer if you divide your money between five, six or seven. Again, a frank conversation at the outset will help prevent any misunderstandings and everyone can then enjoy the process knowing where they stand.

Photograph by Razia N Jukes

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Do the bride and groom really have to give each other wedding presents?

Of course not but that said, a surprise gift on the morning of the wedding really does mean the world. Cost doesn’t have to be an issue – we’ve seen grooms delivering a really personal yet quirky gift that’s reduced his partner to tears. In this day and age, a handwritten love letter could be the most precious gift ever. The best gifts come from the heart, not from a credit card!

Is it acceptable to invite people to only certain parts of the day e.g. Church and drinks, but not supper and dancing ?

Oh this is a tricky one and again, I would say it’s totally down to personal preference. With so many venues limiting numbers for ceremonies, I can understand that these restrictions really do inhibit a guest list so if you’re stuck on numbers, at least inviting people to your evening reception shows them that they were thought about and the message about strictly limited numbers at venues can certainly be conveyed.

However, if you’re expecting people to travel long distances to just attend certain parts of the day, you might have to be prepared for refusals but ultimately, would you prefer to know that you tried to include people rather than leaving them feeling that they weren’t even considered? The guest list is always tricky to manage but again, you know your friends, family and personal situation so make the decision that feels right to you.

If I want to stray from the traditional church, drinks, dinner, dance format, what are my options?

There are so many options! Of course, licensed venues are incredibly popular now and you can choose anywhere from country estate to a restored barn or a spectacular heritage venue. Lots of couples also arrange wedding weekends which might start with a dinner on the Friday night say before the ceremony, celebrations and then a brunch or bbq on the Sunday.

Some couples work with celebrants to create really personal ceremonies that can literally take place anywhere, some arrange glam picnics, alternative entertainments, cocktail hours so you can absolutely vary the format to suit yourselves.

Photograph by Green Antlers

Any recommendations for beautiful bridesmaid/page boy gifts?

Beautiful books, complete with personal inscriptions always make wonderful gifts for young attendants. Heirloom quality toys, personalised items or jewellery for little bridesmaids are also wonderful or you could do something slightly different – how about arranging a family photoshoot with your wedding photographer for example?

For the table plan, place names and favours, how can I do things a bit differently?

A little look on Love My Dress or on our Pinterest boards will show you that when it comes to these details, the world really is your oyster! I’d recommend looking at your wedding theme, your hobbies, your venue or your own personal love story for inspiration. Seating or escort cards are now incredibly popular and are a great alternative to the traditional seating plan. These can be displayed in so many ways and they become a real decorative feature too.

With favours, I’d recommend opting for something that can either be eaten/used at the time or is small enough to be popped in a handbag or pocket and taken away. It’s awful to see so many favours left behind at the end of the evening!

I don’t want to wear a white wedding dress, but it’s not because I’m trying to make a statement. Can you recommend any tasteful alternatives?

Coloured or patterned dresses are incredibly popular at the moment so you’ll find lots of non-white options in the collections from many of the top bridal designers. Separates are also big news in the wedding world so you could opt for a coloured skirt and a plain top or how about something sequinned because metallics are also really on trend.

There are also bridal jumpsuits and trouser suits available or you could use the opportunity to buy that designer dress you’ve been lusting after for years…

Photograph by Claudia Rose Carter

I don’t want to dress my little bridesmaids and page boys in miniature three-piece suits or dinner jackets. Where can I find sweet and traditional outfits for them?

Designers such as Nicki Macfarlane (who designed the bridesmaids dresses for HRH The Duchess of Cambridge) or Little Bevan make beautiful little outfits. Page boys in country tweeds can also look amazing and again, separates for flower girls are really on trend too.

I’m getting married in the dead of winter, but would still like to use seasonal blooms in my bouquet and for decoration – what do you recommend?

Winter flowers can be so beautiful but you definitely need to speak to your florist well in advance to find out what’s available and how best to use your floral budget. Winter flowers can be expensive but there are still plenty of options. For a romantic look, I’d opt for Anemones, Roses and Hydrangeas but don’t discount Carnations either because they’re seeing quite a revival!

For a slightly more exotic feel, Phalaenopsis or Cymbidium Orchids are very striking or, if you’re winter wedding is a little closer to spring, you might be able to make use of Muscari, Narcissi and Tulips. For winter, I also adore foliage and silvered greenery and even succulents. If you give your florist some guidance but let them come up with a floral scheme for you, you won’t be disappointed!

Photograph by Lydia Stamp Photography

I’d like my wedding to have an individual character. What can I make by hand without causing too much stress?

Oooh, this is a tricky one! If you’re not super crafty then expecting yourself to suddenly turn into the Queen of Craft for your wedding might be a bit of a tall order. Sticking to smaller makes is definitely the best idea so making your own confetti or simple place cards could work well. If you’re more artistic, creating your own wedding signage can be a great idea or even a backdrop. Remember that sometimes it’s easier to make one big thing such as a sign or decoration than it is to spend a lot of time make hundreds of smaller, fiddly items. If you search online, you’ll find lots of video tutorial, templates and guidance so craft needn’t be too complicated.

To top hat, or not to top hat?

It totally depends on the style of your wedding but I’d say that for a wedding, it’s always better to dress up, not down!

 Visit Love My Dress for further inspiration

Photograph by Kerry Woods