South Wales Wedding Photographer Cotswolds WeddingFestival Wedding Photographer South Wales

It’s the first anniversary of our Daughter’s wedding at The Wilderness Festival. As we listen to Jo Whiley tonight, playing some of the bands playing there this year, it makes us wish we could be going there again. Except, we have four lovely weddings to photograph for other couples here in South Wales! Jessica and Benoit (Mr and Mrs O’Dell now) are returning to celebrate their anniversary in style, starting with a visit to the Petersham Nurseries banquet. Here I have included Jessica’s story of their engagement and their festival wedding.

What was your budget? 

We kept the budget pretty realistic and only spent on things we really wanted to have. By being creative and thinking about it a bit differently, we managed to create something utterly unique. We had entertainment from top international musicians, boutique glamping, Michelin-star chefs and a private Laurent Perrier champagne tent, but for a tiny fraction of what you’d imagine!

How would you describe your wedding theme? 

A bohemian wedding extravaganza, held at award winning Wilderness Festival in Cornbury Park in the Cotswolds. We spent three amazing days of revelry with 75 of our close friends and family, everyone camping in canvas bell tents and enjoying the great outdoors in the ancient oak forest and all the wonders of this incredible festival.

Just some of the activities we took part in were; swimming in the lake, doing vinyasa yoga in a yurt, eating delicious food cooked by Michelin star chefs – in beautiful banqueting tents, watching a huge variety of bands, outdoor theatre spectaculars and dancing until dawn – deep in the forest with amazing light shows, DJs and acrobatic performers in the trees.

What was your favourite part of your wedding?

There are so many it’s impossible to choose, but here goes!!

Walking through the festival site towards where the ceremony was happening on the Saturday morning, we of course passed hundreds of festival goers all wishing us well and we just couldn’t stop smiling and waving – my mum was about the most excited I have ever seen her!

As we approached the arch dressed with flowers that the boys had set up on a grassy area overlooking the lake, I could see Benoit with his massive smile and the kids filling the air with their bubble guns. There was a random musician with a fantastic moustache playing guitar (the boys had found him sitting on a hay bale and asked him if he fancied playing some music for us in exchange for a bacon sarnie). Just walking down the grassy slope on my dad’s arm, towards all my family and friends and just seeing everyone having so much fun and looking so enchanted by the magical feeling of it all… that will stay in my memory forever!

Tell us about your Wedding Dress

Knowing from early on that a “proper” wedding dress and anything white would be a bit of a nightmare, especially if we got unlucky with the weather, I pretty much knew I wouldn’t be wearing one on the day. It also helped considerably with the budget!

I did go and try on a few with my mum as we were so excited to do that, but whilst I tried on a few that looked fab, I just knew that it wouldn’t work for our style of wedding. I did, however, fall utterly, head over heels in love with an exquisite floor length veil with beautiful beaded detail, and a very bohemian look. It was at the lovely Victoria Valentine’s shop in Abergavenny, and I just had to have it. Bearing in mind that I didn’t have a dress at this point, it was a bit of a backwards way to do it, but my mum saw how much I loved it and we duly left with the beginnings of my outfit!

From there I just kept an eye out for ideas and happened to stumble upon a gorgeous dusky blue chiffon dress in the Topshop Limited Collection – the colour was perfectly me and the style just seemed to connect with what we were doing. I’m a sucker for a gorgeous colour and that was me, done! I accessorised for different parts of the day with a delicate necklace and then a fur shrug and a jewelled headpiece for later after I had removed my veil.

Who did you pick as your bridesmaids and best man and why?

My maid of honour was my friend Michelle who I’ve known since school. She is the kindest, most vivacious person you will ever meet, with such lust for life it’s totally infectious! She is is a creative genius and was invaluable in helping us make all the little fun bits that helped pull the wedding together.

Then I also asked my best friend from university, Mike, to be my sort of Best Man, or ‘Brides Man’, as we called him! He is the most fun person you could ever wish to have around you, and has such a sense of mischief and the biggest heart – there was nobody else I would have considered to be my right hand man. He even did a speech for me which was totally amazing and made me so proud to have him as one of my closest friends and longest standing partner in crime!!

We also had another very important person, my friend Sweeney, who I’ve known since I was about 2 years old. He performed our wedding ceremony at the Wilderness Festival (we had an official registry office ceremony two days earlier as well). He was just brilliant, especially considering we didn’t get to have a practice run! We wrote the ceremony ourselves, but gave him the freedom to tweak it if he wanted, and we just let him run with it. He was perfect – funny, sincere, delivered it beautifully, and it felt really personal to have him doing it for us, the whole thing was really intimate, relaxed and yet still felt very much like a real wedding ceremony!

We also had our nephew Lucian as a ring bearer and my cousin’s little girl Imogen as a flower girl.

Why did you choose your venue?

We had been to the Wilderness Festival the year before, not long after getting engaged and it just seemed like the perfect setting.

Once we had decided on it, nothing else even came close and then it was just a matter of tackling the momentous task of pulling it all together!!

We also stripped it right back to thinking about what we love to do as a couple – namely cooking and eating great food, seeing live music, dancing, and being outdoors.

We just both felt really strongly that we wanted to create a completely unique experience, and have a wedding that would last for longer than a day. With family in Australia, France, Turkey, and friends in New York, Amsterdam, Singapore and Guernsey, we just wanted more time to hang out with them and celebrate.

Tell us about your photographer 

Well, he’s my dad!! There was just no way we could ever consider using anyone else. We of course wanted mum and dad to be able to enjoy the day, and be in the photos too, so my uncle took some extra shots, as well as my brother – they both have a great eye for photography, it must run in the family!

We didn’t want any formal photos really, as there was so much fun stuff going on that we didn’t want to miss anything or be away from our guests for long, many of whom had travelled from overseas to be there. So Dad just snapped away and it was all very relaxed, but in such an incredible setting with so much to see and do, there was endless subject matter!

He did such an incredible job, and I still don’t know how he managed to get so many absolutely stunning shots for us, whilst being fully involved in all the wedding fun, AND delivering the best ‘father of the bride’s speech’ ever. Part of the reason we wanted to do the wedding as we did was because he and mum are at over 40 ‘normal’ weddings a year, so we wanted them to be able to enjoy one that was totally different!

How did the proposal happen? 

Benoit had planned a gorgeous weekend trip away for us in Lake Como, where he was going to propose with the stunning vintage pear cut diamond ring. He and our neighbour Laura had been working on the ring for the last couple of months. Laura, the super talented owner of Tomfoolery, a jewellery shop in Muswell Hill, London, had made the ring with Benoit’s input, looking through dozens of pear cut diamonds from Hatton Garden diamond traders until he found the perfect one, I had no idea it was all happening in secrecy!

He had also secretly driven back to Wales one night after work, and then straight back again (a 6 hr round trip), after taking my Dad for an ice-cream on the Porthcawl seafront and asking him for my hand in marriage. I was really delighted that he did that and I still can’t quite believe that my dad managed to keep it a secret, he’s absolutely rubbish at keeping secrets and must have been bursting at the seams to tell my Mum!

However, the day before we were due to leave for Italy, Benoit accidentally sent a text message, (meant for my best friend Michelle) to me instead. It was to tell her about the ring after he had collected it, saying how perfect it was and how excited he was about the weekend!! He completely freaked when he realised he had pressed send to the wrong person and basically thought he had completely ruined the surprise…. and worst of all proposed with a text message! He’s a massive romantic, had put so much effort into planning this perfectly and it was essentially his worst nightmare.

He was utterly mortified and rang me straight away to do some damage limitation! Luckily for him, I was at the time, walking home from work along Regent’s Canal and chatting to my grandmother on the phone. I hung up to see about 10 missed calls and a load of messages, and as I was about to read them, Benoit called again. He of course was convinced that by then I knew, and was just rabbiting down the phone at me, not really making any sense at all!

Once he realised that I had no idea what he was talking about and actually hadn’t seen the message, he made me promise not to look at my phone (this was VERY hard!) and wait for him by the bridge in Little Venice. Luckily it is a particularly stunning spot in London, especially on a sunny June evening! He grabbed the ring, leapt onto his bike and came haring it down the canal towpath about 15 minutes later. I still had no clue what was going on and was really starting to lose patience, as he was just dragging me about, talking nonsense, whilst he was obviously trying to gather his thoughts, and find a nice romantic spot!

The next thing I knew he was down on one knee, ring in hand, and then everything started making sense!! After I’d rung my mum to tell her the news, we walked around the corner to Benoit’s brother’s house and asked him if he had a bottle of champagne handy, and told them too. Then we went off for our gorgeous weekend away and just celebrated the entire time, which was even better in a way! I christened the trip our “Engage-moon”!

It was so funny and typically Benoit; I love the story!

Any DIY stories/tutorials you’d like to share?

I designed a website with loads of content and useful info to help everyone feel more comfortable, as we were very conscious that many of our guests would be going to a festival for the first time!

We hired and set up canvas Bell tents for those who wanted them, and the were great! And for everyone who was camping, we made little “survival bags”, complete with wet wipes, bottled of water, ear plugs, eye masks, alka seltzer, and other bits and bobs!

My Maid of Honour Michelle, Benoit and I had some great afternoons at our house together making feather headsets, customising hats, spraying masks with metallic paint and sewing beads and ribbons onto everything we could get our hands on! Between us we made enough accessories for all our wedding guests as well as the bridal party. One of the tents became a dedicated dressing up area – we called it the Fancification Station!

What was your first dance & why?

We didn’t really orchestrate a first dance, but definitely had a very memorable moment amidst the crowd, with a load of our friends and family as the moon was rising. The ultimate romantic crooner Burt Bacharach was on stage. Benoit had his French cousin’s little girl, Luce, on his shoulders and everyone was dancing with each other, singing and laughing, it was so much fun! We carried on doing that until about 4.30am (minus the kids of course!)

In hindsight, was there anything you would have done differently?

We gave ourselves rather a lot of work to do and much of the final details couldn’t be done until we were actually on the festival site, so it was quite mad at times! But everything came together just as we had dreamt it would, so it was all worth it and we would do it all again in a heartbeat! We knew we would be creating something that nobody else could ever replicate, and there was no chance of it being dull in any way. It was totally unique and the “We must be crazy!?!” moments finally gave way to the “I can’t believe we are actually pulling this off!!” moments!

Do you have any advice for future couples?

Don’t think you have to stick to the formula, keep it about you and what you are about as a couple, be brave, be creative, and above everything else make it unique. Really go for it with your ideas, work together and you can find a way to make it happen.

What’s the best piece of marriage advice you received?

Just be yourself and work as a team.

What was your favourite thing about planning a wedding?

I loved all the creative bits, making accessories, designing the invitations and website, making the flowers, and also seeing how involved and excited Benoit was, he was the driving force behind what we did. He was totally involved in every step – he’s a great project manager and I couldn’t imagine having a wedding where the groom is just going through the motions or doesn’t have much of a say in it.

Here are a small selection of images from the wedding day: