…Written by Susannah Parker, Founder & Creative Director – Couture Weddings Events.
If you are looking for the most romantic, quintessentially English setting for your wedding then look no further than the Walled Garden at Cowdray. Your adventure begins the moment you pass through the whimsical heart gate whereupon you are immediately immersed in a magical country luxe setting reminiscent of Frances Hodgson Burnet’s very own Secret Garden.
The Walled Garden at Cowdray is guaranteed to steal your heart as the perfect setting in which to make your vows and celebrate your wedding, so read on to find out my expert tips for how to style your wedding in this exclusive, hidden gem of a location and how to make the most of this magical, natural setting.
Hosting your wedding in a walled garden is literally a gift that keeps on giving. The first bonus is that you’ll have the most incredibly beautiful natural backdrop on which to then put your own personal twist. With the gardens in full bloom in summer, you already have a huge head start on other venues when it comes to creating a romantic, abundant, colourful visual backdrop not only for your ceremony and reception but your wedding photography and videography as well. You also have the bonus of naturally shady areas, where guests can enjoy their drinks after your ceremony as well as giving them the opportunity to take their time and explore the what the garden has to offer in terms of the huge range of plants and flowers so carefully cultivated within and the wildlife which thrives there.
The first piece of advice I’d give anyone planning their wedding in a walled garden is to keep all your styling elements sympathetic to this, so your whole wedding day becomes an extension of the natural world and remains in keeping with this most natural and organic of surroundings.
Looking at a few of the individual elements which make up a wedding, let’s start with your wedding stationery, as this sets the tone for everything that follows. Why not incorporate botanical elements into your stationery design, for example, this suite by A Little Pigment which not only incorporates subtle references to the natural world but is also made from recycled paper in natural earthy tones. I also love the innovative ideas from The Seed Card Company – your guests can replant their wedding invitation and day stationery and it with a little love and attention it will then grow into beautiful wildflowers. How amazing is that! And when it comes to your table plan, you could either hang place names from individual ribbons tied to branches or present your escort cards on a bed of blooms, like we did here:
Moving on now to a major part of your wedding day styling, your floral designs…
As I mentioned above, you already have a head start with all blooms already in the garden, so my advice is to use your floral designs to enhance these and work with them to create a design which creates the illusion being natural extensions of the garden rather than installations which have been brought in and positioned temporarily. For example, I would advise a natural, loose, tumbling floral style, unreconstructed and organic.
I adore styling which looks like natural extensions of the garden, for example these floral works of art created for me recently by the wonderful Ali from Bloomologie
(Image credits Claire Graham // Couture // Bloomologie). This tree wrap was the feature installation for an outdoor ceremony which later became the chill out area was created by styling an existing overhead branch above our elegant outdoor bar.
These installations created the illusion that these ancient apple trees had magically come into bloom and the effect was breath taking.
I’m also a huge fan of repurposing your flowers throughout the day, by which I mean making them as portable as possible for example, floral troughs used to line your aisle could later be used to style your bar or to frame your chill out seating area. Weaving florals through existing structures is also a really effective way to soften elements of your venue, as we did here on a bare metal trellis, transforming it into a romantic floral canopy.
The Walled Garden at Cowdray has so many opportunities to do this, for example the ceremony structure and around the walled ponds.
After your wedding ceremony, while you are making the most of the natural beauty of the venue with your photographer and videographer, the key to a successful and memorable wedding is the comfort and enjoyment of your guests. Why not offer mouth watering cocktails inspired by your setting, such as an “English Country Garden” (gin, elderflower liqueur and apple juice) or a Violet Pearl Bloom (vodka, fragrant jasmine pearl tea, violet infused liqueur and Lillet Blanc) or for non alcoholic drinks, how about a Blackberry Smash – muddled blackberries with a dash of lemon juice, topped with pressed apple juice and cranberry juice.
For additional comfort, I always advise my couples that they should arrange soft seating for about a quarter of their guests – your drinks reception can be anything from 90 minutes to 2 hours and on a warm day, your guests, especially the older generation, will appreciate being able to relax and take a seat. So much of the furniture from hire companies is either really generic and corporate looking or is just so unimaginative and synthetic. For this beautiful natural setting of the Walled Garden, I just love the furniture from local company The W Collection – they offer sets made from natural products such as bamboo or rattan and also – my personal favourite!
Finally, when it comes to creating a wonderfully relaxed and welcoming environment for your guests to enjoy, in my opinion, music is absolutely key. For a wonderfully cool, laid back yet upbeat vibe, you just can’t beat acoustic roaming musicians. (Credit Herringbone Cocktail Club) I have worked with this genre of musicians many times over the years and they never fail to create the most wonderful connection with guests – reading the crowd and playing unobtrusive and gentle background music near guests who want to chill, or getting guests on their feet and informally joining in with those who have more energy.
On your wedding day, the day you’ve dreamed about, planned to the nth degree and counted down the days to for months and weeks, I can tell you now that you cannot beat the feeling of having married the one you love and cemented your commitment to one another in front of all those dearest to you, then taking a few minutes out for yourselves to quietly retire and survey your surroundings from a distance – drinking in and committing to memory the sights and sounds of your venue elevated and brought to life by your vision, and your cherished guests all having the time of their lives in honour of your day.
If you’d like an expert by your side to help you design, plan and organise your wedding day, you can find out more about the team at Couture Events here.
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