"Matt was so shy when we were at school, but when we saw each other again as adults he was like a new man," says bride Emma. The pair met while attending Brockhill Performing Arts College in Kent. They dated at the time, but the relationship went no further until they found each other again eight years later.
Shortly after the couple bought their first home together, Emma decided to throw a house party to celebrate her 29th birthday. Their friends and family gathered in the dining room to sing Happy Birthday. Once the applause died down Matt approached Emma, and took her by the hand. He said, "You're my best friend, and I love you more than anything else in the world." With that he was down on one knee asking her to marry him. Emma remembers, "I just jumped up and down screaming – 'of course I will! Yes, yes, yes!!'"
"We knew we wanted to get married outdoors and we needed to find a venue to comfortably seat 130 guests for our wedding breakfast," Emma says. So it was with these criteria in mind that they viewed more than 15 venues around Kent before deciding on Westenhanger Castle. It was conveniently close for them, as well as for their loved ones, and they instantly fell in love with beautiful gardens there.
Emma wore a stunning fit and flare Martina Liana dress with beautiful lace and beading detail. Her talented mother-in-law made her veil, and she accessorised the look perfectly with square diamond-drop earrings. The bridesmaids were also dressed to impress in this chic shade in a style to complement the bride's. The fit and flare, low back gowns needed altering when they arrived, but luckily Emma's mother-in-law was on hand to assist.
Meanwhile, Matt and his groomsmen wore black suits paired with black patent shoes, bow ties and white shirts. The groom's jacket was velvet with silk lapels, so that he stood out as the man of the hour.
The wedding breakfast was set out in 12 tables. Five were adorned with low round vases containing fresh hydrangeas, and seven were decorated with tall candelabra filled with white faux roses, peonies, lilies and hydrangeas. The couple hand made the place names, and made the smart decision to use them to remind guests of their menu choices. The table plan itself was elegantly displayed on a six-foot mirror with white floral edging.
Each guest was gifted a white silk fan with the newlyweds' logo stamped on them, along with a white rose buttonhole each, and an individually wrapped tissue sealed with a logo sticker, in case of tears.
The couple created a floral fantasy with flowers dotted all around the venue from the outside tables, right through to the toilet, and everywhere in between! As they exchanged vows beneath the gazebo the scent from the gorgeous fresh flower runner they'd made added to the romantic atmosphere. "A family friend, Michelle, kindly offered to help arrange our flowers. I had six bridesmaids, each with a bouquet of five white hydrangeas tied with white ribbon. Every time I looked at my bouquet I fell more in love with it," Emma remembers.
Matt's auntie baked the wedding cake. Emma explains, "I didn't want the traditional tiered cake so we opted for several separate bakes in different sizes and flavours, including red velvet, lemon drizzle, chocolate, carrot cake, and Victoria sponge." Each was decorated with white buttercream and white roses.
"It was really important to Matt and I that we could offer our guests a full three course meal with three options per course. It was well worth the extra expense as the food was incredible," the bride recalls. The delicious menu featured dishes such as slow roasted tomato and onion tartin topped with glazed goats cheese, herb crusted rump of lamb with a red wine jus, and chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream.
The Radnor Quartet provided beautiful ceremony music and ambience for the drinks reception. Emma says, "We made a playlist of music for the wedding breakfast, then for our evening entertainment we hired a selfie mirror and two casino tables with black jack and roulette."
"We went on a mini-moon to Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve for three nights, which was organised and paid for by Matt's mum and stepdad. It's only a 10-minute drive from Westenhanger Castle, so it was perfect to head there after celebrations had drawn to a close," Emma says. The newlyweds spent their wedding night in the hotel before moving to the Lion Lodge for the remainder of their stay. The bride remembers, "It was the most incredible experience, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as our beautiful lodge looked out on to the lion enclosure."
"Make a timeline for your suppliers. This helps to ensure your wedding planner, toastmaster and venue team know exactly what's expected of them, and how you want your wedding to be.
"Don't worry about a thing on the day – that's what your bridesmaids and ushers are there for! Take a moment to look around at your guests, see their faces and hear their laughter. They're there to celebrate your love and show you theirs," Emma shares.
Venue and catering