It was in the really scrappy, murky, cold, tatty end of January that Joanne (of The Wedding Dolls) got in touch with me about the flowers for a wedding later that year. As she talked about the couple and their ideas and plans, their wedding seemed a million miles away; tropical colours, palms, ferns and grasses, strong influences from the Caribbean (to honour Doug’s family and Hannah’s childhood memories) and touches of Australia (another childhood home) all to melt into the Sussex downs at Birling Manor in the heat of August.

When we met later in the spring the weather had turned and we spent a morning walking round Birling Manor, discussing ideas, talking about plans, and really working out the bones of what was needed for the day. Birling Manor hosts only a handful of weddings each year as the family live on site. It’s a place I relish going to as it’s just up the road from my workshop and our home, and surrounded by stunning hills and a landscape that looks out the to lighthouse at Birling Gap. I also love this venue for it’s simplicity. The house and barns have not been tampered with too much, they are old and beautiful. The owners have not added much decoration over the years, there is not a touch of “shabby chic” anywhere, which makes me incredibly happy. 

So over the preceding months, Hannah, Doug, Joanne and I kept in touch and gradually the plans firmed up. Hannah and Doug live and work in London so communication between all suppliers was key. The weather changed again and August hit right in the middle of a very long, hot summer! Perfect for the day, and thankfully perfect also for the tropical flowers that dominated the arrangements. I had never worked with such an exotic array of flowers before; Anthurium, Celosia, Monstera, Heleconia, Godetia, Ginger, Protea, Dendrobe Orchids, Kangaroo Paw…it was exciting for me to use such unfamiliar flowers and I loved every minute! The colours, shapes and textures were incredible and they changed my mind about using tropicals – I had thought they were usually a bit naff, very plastic looking, and not fashionable since the 90’s. Turns out I was out of date. 

We decorated the venue using a specially designed and handmade copper frame which formed a stunning backdrop for the ceremony and silent disco in the evening. (Wish I could take some credit for the hundreds of origami Cranes dripping from the ceiling but they were all Hannah and Doug’s doing!) 

We also created a sweeping arrangement around the base of the stairs and on the landing (Bert, of The Good Florist, a dear friend and wonderful florist lent me some extra woman-power for the day). It is often a really good idea to consider neutral areas such as stairways, halls, and landings, as they link ceremony rooms, receptions rooms, indoors with outdoors, cloakrooms and bathrooms. Guests will walk past and loiter around these areas many times during the day and it makes such a difference to have this space decorated and taken care of. 

Hannah arrived in a Tuk Tuk, as did her bridesmaids and flower girl.

Pretty much every time I set up a wedding I want to stay and watch the party, cry at the ceremony, and eat the food. This was no exception. I considered hanging out incognito.

And there was a pool.

Whilst I couldn’t stay, I was able to live through the day looking through the photos taken by Lucy Sugden Smith. She captured so much atmosphere and detail, and obviously captured the flowers and fresh arrangements perfectly.

What a beautiful day. Cheers to Hannah and Doug, and here’s hoping for more tropical weddings in the years to come!