“At the end of the night, after Hannah had rolled up her skirt and rocked a couple of ceilidh dances, our entire wedding party gave her huge hugs and kisses. And, in that moment, I realised that we’d started the process with a photographer and ended with a friend.”
Gemma smashed her speech on her wedding day; when I arrived that morning she had hidden herself away to practice her speech, but she needn’t have because she knew it SO WELL and that girl has nailed the perfect wedding speech… Emotional, heart felt, sometimes dry at times with perfect comic timing. She has an incredible way with words so I really encourage you to read this blog post because it’s just lovely to read.
Ian, your speech was great too… but your wife wins!
Huntsmill Farm is a one of Buckinghamshire’s best kept secrets and I was so glad that I got to shoot my first wedding their with Gemma and Ian and I can’t wait to visit them in Scotland and get out walking with them!
How did you meet?
The date was 29th January 2012. It was a cold Saturday night in Clapham and I was attending the birthday party of a friend’s boyfriend (both of whom played hockey). Ian, who had recently joined the same hockey club upon moving down to London, was also there. I wish I could say that it was a love at first sight moment, with our eyes meeting across the bar. The reality of it was that I had no idea Ian was even there until we were asked to congregate outside ahead of moving onto a karaoke bar. In hindsight, this was the first sign that Ian and I were going to hit it off – because we were the first two people to follow orders, despite the weather. The rest of the night went by in a blur. We had some great conversation, I even managed to get a few sentences in occasionally. Ian serenaded me with a wonderful version of One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful. We danced and chatted some more. And by the end of the night Ian had successfully secured my interest!
Tell me your proposal story:
Ian and I had always been very open with each other about the future – so knew we wanted to get married (a good start). We moved to Canada for two years and I’d placed enough subtle hints that I wanted to have a ring on my finger by the time we got back to the UK. As we entered 2018, 9 months left on our adventure, we started planning a big trip out West in the Summer and I was keeping my fingers crossed that Ian would propose on the top of a mountain, mid-hike.
Needless to say, I was hugely surprised when he proposed just 3 months later, whilst on a long weekend break to Prince Edward County. It was indeed mid-hike, although I was freezing my tits off on a very windy beach, moaning that Ian was dragging me up a sand dune for no real reason. I knew something was about to happen when we got to the top and Ian refused to move on (he was waiting for other people to bugger off so he could propose in private). I was rambling on about board games, so he politely asked me to shut up, then got down on one knee and proposed! Not the most romantic proposal – as the first thing he said was “I know it’s not the ring you wanted” (referring to his Grandmother’s sapphire engagement ring, that I was in love with)… “but that ring has to go down the female side of the family so I couldn’t give it to you… but this is my Grandmita’s ring so is also very special.” Of course, I didn’t give a monkey’s, He could have put a ring made of cheese on my finger and I’d have been thrilled. Turned out that he had planned on proposing later in the Summer, but he’d asked for my parent’s permission at Christmas and collected the ring from his Mum then – and, to use his words, “just couldn’t wait any longer.”
Why did you choose to have your wedding at Huntsmill Farm?
When we started looking at wedding venues, everyone kept on telling me that you’ll know when “it’s the one” and I thought, what a load of bollocks. Until, after looking at about a dozen venues, I stumbled across Huntsmill Farm through a Facebook friend who had got married there (seriously Facebook stalking is what it is ALL about – without that I don’t think I would have found Huntsmill or Hannah!!). We went to visit and, much to my annoyance (because I wanted to prove all those people wrong) it did indeed “feel” right. We wanted a venue that felt natural and relaxed (and their barn is just beautiful), and we warmed to Henry and Ruth immediately (we also loved their own story and the journey the farm had been on as a wedding venue). We wanted a venue that was in keeping with our love of the outdoors and just loved all the quirky features Huntsmill Farm had to offer. Having been to plenty of weddings where guests disappeared off into different rooms/spaces, we also wanted a venue where we didn’t risk “losing” people so the barn with the courtyard was perfect. We’d limited ourselves fairly early on by needing somewhere with accommodation on-site due to my Dad (who’s on the wrong side of 70 and needed a mid-afternoon rest spot!) – so when we discovered Huntsmill also had on-site cottages for rent, we felt it was too good to be true.
What was it you loved about your outfits and accessories that made you choose them?
Ian’s Scottish and his family tartan is the Modern Ferguson – it’s a gorgeous tartan (thank Christ because there are some AWFUL ones out there) and the deep greens and blues helped steer some of the colour scheme for the day, such as my bridesmaids dresses. Also a happy coincidence that green is my favourite colour.
I had zero involvement in Ian’s outfit – so all credit is due to him. I know I’m biased but man did he look handsome. It’s traditional to wear black shoes with a kilt, tied up with Ghillie laces (the really long ones that criss cross up the leg). So when Ian told the shop he was going with brown brogues and navy long socks with normal laces, apparently they told him he was completely mad and it would look awful Well, he proved them completely wrong – and never before would I have thought to describe Ian as “stylish” – perhaps he’ll set a new trend?!
I’m sure most brides love the shopping process…. unfortunately I am the world’s worst shopper. I hate it. With a passion. And whilst wedding dress shopping is different I know, I still dreaded it. Fortunately I was lucky enough to have my sister-in-law for support. Looking back, I think I might even have enjoyed myself (a little bit). I started the process determined that I wasn’t going to spend a lot of money on a dress – I’d always been one of those people that was of the view that it’s for one day, it’s one dress, spending £££s was just silly. So I started at Wed2B and, after about 6 dresses, found one that I really loved. But we had various other appointments booked for the day so put that dress on hold and did the rounds. Melle Cloche is a gorgeous independent bridal shop in Glasgow and was the last stop of the day – I’d tried on various dresses in their clearance sale but none of them were quite right. Back on went the coat and scarf and, just as were leaving the shop, I spotted the most beautiful lace dress hanging on the end of a rack. The lovely woman helping me, followed my eyes and said “That’s not on clearance, in fact it’s one of our more expensive dresses. Do you want to try it on?” Me: No, no, no it’s far too expensive. My sister-in-law: “Come on Gem, just try it on. What’s the harm?” Well, I’ll tell you what the harm is. The harm is that you try it on, it smashes all other dresses out the park, you tell the sensible voices in your head chiming that it’s far too expensive to f**k off, and you max out your credit card. But, do I regret it? Absolutely not. I’m not a girly girl AT ALL, but I felt like a million dollars in that dress. And that is a priceless feeling. Plus I’m now selling it on so another lovely bride can feel like a million dollars but at half the price. A win win situation I think. I’ve now just got to stop my Mum from crying that it’s not going to stay folded up in a box for the next 50 years. She even suggested she could make cushions out of it, if that would stop me from selling it. Gotta love Mums eh?
Tell me about the vision you had for your wedding including your theme/colour scheme/styling/flowers:
This one is an easy one – in all honesty, we didn’t really have a “vision.” We just wanted the whole feel of the day to be relaxed, that was the word we kept on using with all of our wedding suppliers. Relaxed, fun and colourful.
The barn at Huntsmill Farm is stunning on its own – you could literally not do anything to it and it would still be gorgeous. So we decided we’d just add some flowers, but not have any other decorations. When we met with Lizzy, our amazing florist from the Flower Story, we reiterated that we wanted relaxed, natural and colourful (and all British, local flowers if possible) and, man, did she deliver. My bouquets, the jam jars on the tables, the floral hoops, were all divine – and the colours! They just brought the barn to life, without detracting from its natural beauty. Lizzy’s masterpiece was an incredible display by the door, incorporating our old hiking boots (cleaned three times I’ll add).
We just wanted the wedding to be “us” – so our place names were scrabble racks in recognition of our love of board games (I glued every individual piece and now have approximately 1,478 remaining scrabble letters), our menu cards used boot footprint stamps to highlight selections (in recognition of our love of hiking, hence the hiking boot floral arrangement too!), we had some tartan runners as a nod to Ian’s heritage, fairy lights in old gin bottles (a nod to our love of gin), marshmallows and firepits (again a nod to our love of the outdoors). Just little bits and bobs that, all together, created an environment and setting that was just “us.” Sorry, I know that sounds awfully cheesy …!
What was your first dance and why did you choose it?
This was probably one of the easiest decisions we made during the planning process (and one we’d made years ago). The song: Still Into You, by Paramore. Not the most obvious wedding song I know…
It was a song I loved before I met Ian… then, I met Ian, and the words of the song actually meant something. I could resonate with them. Plus, it turned out that Ian was a huge Paramore fan, so when I played it to him a couple of years into our relationship and confessed that “I thought of us” every time I listened to it, he confessed the same. I’m pretty certain that we were in the car driving somewhere … we sat there, listening to it. It finished and I said, “well, if we ever get married then we know what our first dance will be…”
We had initially just planned on playing the original version in full – but then came across a lovely acoustic version of the song. So I convinced Ian to blend the two songs. Plus, I secretly had always pictured my husband “dipping” me romantically during our first dance! The end result was the best of both – we got to sway awkwardly for 2 minutes whilst people took photos, absolutely smashed “the dip” and then got to jump up and down like nutters screaming out the words we’ve both known off by heart for 7 years. And, thanks to you, you caught that moment where my face is so scrunched up with the passion of shouting the words “I’m still into you” that I look like a prune. So everyone is a winner!
What were the most wonderful parts of the day for you?
Seriously? I mean, that’s like asking what my favourite cheese is. Impossible to answer, because I have SO MANY FAVOURITE CHEESES.
The whole day was, truly, wonderful. But, if I had to pick out some extra special moments, they would include:
– Walking down the aisle, seeing Ian and realising that I’d never been more certain about anything in my life (oh and that he was ten times more nervous than I was HA)
– The speeches. We were lucky enough to have a full set of INCREDIBLE speeches. I know we’re biased but, having been to a large number of weddings and sat through dozens of speeches, we really felt like ours kicked ass. Not too long, the perfect balance of emotional and funny, lots of jokes at our expense, personal.
– The ceilidh. This is a tough one to describe and, out of all the recollections of the day, is the one that makes me well up the quickest. I think it’s because the ceilidh captured everything we’d hoped for from the day – at one point (I have no idea what time it was) I stood on the edge of the PACKED dancefloor and saw all of my family and friends (quite literally almost all) dancing out of time to Scotland’s most handsome ceilidh band, stepping on each other’s toes, sweating their ass’s off, but evidently just having THE best time. I keep on using the phrase “pure, unadulterated joy” and this moment encapsulated that. I remember getting emotional at the time and someone asking me if I was OK. My answer, “Oh Yes, this is just everything I wanted.” And it really was!
Why did you choose Hannah Hall Photography as your photographer, and what was your experience of your photography on the day?
Blimey, where to start…
Selecting your wedding photographer is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in the wedding planning process. I searched for hours and couldn’t find what I was looking for – yet, much to my husband’s frustration, couldn’t describe exactly “what” was missing. So, when I stumbled (aka intentionally stalked the photos of every one of my recently married Facebook friends) across a set of Hannah’s photos, it was with sheer relief that I realised I’d found THE ONE. And, yes, finding Hannah and looking through her photos really did feel like falling in love all over again.
So, how to describe Hannah’s photography… real, honest, unashamed, vibrant, emotional, natural, fun. Hannah will be in amongst every moment of your day but without you realising that she’s there (how she does that I have no idea – it could well be magic). Hannah is the photographer that’ll make your Dad laugh when he’s clearly nervous AF. The photographer that will adjust your bridesmaid’s bra straps when they haven’t quite been tucked in fully. The photographer that will wink at you in the middle of your ceremony when you’re about to read your vows and need that little vote of confidence.
She’ll catch the snorting laughs, the heartfelt hugs, the tears, the nerves, the glances, the double chins… everything. Don’t expect a set of immaculate, posed, formal photographs and if that’s what you’re looking for then Hannah isn’t your gal. But, what you will get is a very special documentary of your day, your journey. I remember reading Hannah’s reviews before we met her and someone had written “Looking through the pictures she gave us was like having a videographer we hadn’t planned; a story board of the emotions of our day” – beautiful words and ones that resonate so much with us. We must have looked at our photos a dozen times now and every time we spot something new. They remind us that all the planning was worthwhile because, through Hannah’s photos, you see the pure unadulterated joy.
And Hannah herself? Well, at the end of the night, after Hannah had rolled up her skirt and rocked a couple of ceilidh dances, our entire wedding party gave her huge hugs and kisses. And, in that moment, I realised that we’d started the process with a photographer and ended with a friend. Pretty darn special, eh?
So, if you’re sitting on the fence or are nervous about making the leap, meet this incredible lady for a coffee (even if that means driving 90 minutes to a Costa in the middle of an industrial estate) and you’ll know after 10 minutes if you’re a match.
Hannah, Jamie, we are eternally grateful for your awesomeness, THANK YOU. Here’s to hiking and whiskey in 2020!
PS. I’ll never mock Facebook stalking again.
What would be your best bit of advice to other couples planning their wedding?
Can we offer three bits of advice? Well, we’re going to anyway…
1. There will always be pressures from family and friends through the wedding planning process and people LOVE to give their opinion. “You’re not getting a videographer? Hmm, you’ll regret that.” “I know you’ve picked your ten group shots but can we squeeze in one of just the cousins, we’d really like one?” “Darling, we’d like to invite these 8 friends of ours who haven’t seen you since you were 13 but would just love to see you get married.” It would be too easy to give the advice of “ignore everyone else – do what YOU want” and that’s what we got told all the time… often from the same people who also then felt it appropriate to express an opinion on a decision we’d made (with no malintent I should add but it just plants a seed of doubt). So, what I would say, is have confidence in your decisions – there may be times when you need to compromise with a parent, or a friend may make a valid observation that you hadn’t thought about – but the decisions are, indeed, yours to make, so don’t necessarily ignore all the comments and suggestions you’ll get given, but do trust in your own judgments.
2. More one for the brides, but my only regret from the day was not taking a moment with my bridesmaids and my Dad before walking down the aisle. One minuteI was having my final makeup touches done and the next I was walking down the aisle – everything in between was a complete blur and in hindsight I didn’t take the time to just stop for 10 seconds, say thank you and recognise the specialness of the moment we were all about to experience together.
3. Don’t feel pressured to talk to all of your guests – and try not to feel guilty afterwards when you undoubtedly reflect on those you didn’t get round to. It’s not possible. As in, if you do the maths, its physically not possible. Everyone is there to celebrate your love, and will enjoy your day even if they don’t manage to exchange words with you.
Ian + Gemma’s mega colourful and fun wedding at Huntsmill Farm happened with the help of…
Hair & Makeup: Frankie Rose // Dress: Sottero & Midgely from Melle Cloche // Flowers: The Flower Story
Venue: Huntsmill Farm // Cake: West Country Cheese // Bridesmaids: Hobbs // Gents: McCalls of Glasgow
GETTING MARRIED AT HUNTSMILL FARM? TAKE ME TOO!