Ooh! What a day we had with Jenny and Graham at Henham Barns on the site where Latitude festival takes place. Far from being a sunny and warm day though, November threw us a gale force wind and driving rain! Despite all this, it was one of our best days out this year. Credit to the venue for being so versatile (it’ll be going in our annual revision of our favourite venue blog for sure!). Most importantly though, credit to the couple for planning things so perfectly. So here’s some real Henham Barns wedding photography and in their own words, the couples take on their big day!
I work as a communications executive for a university, essentially it’s content marketing. I get to do a bit of writing, a bit of social media management and other bits and bobs. Before that I was a freelance personal trainer and a dance teacher. I’m not sure if it counts as fun haha, but we’re both into triathlon and I’m currently training for my third Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). My spare time is mainly spent getting sweaty in lycra! An unusual fact… other than my capability to consume extortionate amounts of peanut butter for a relatively small person.
I used to play guitar in a punk band as a teenager. We got a few of our songs played on local radio and gigged at plenty of dodgy bars in London on school nights. Once we even played at the Royal Albert Hall – sandwiched between choirs and violinists!
I’m a design engineer for an F1 team. It’s my fault that Jenny got into triathlon so I also spend a lot of time training – but I’m happiest when I’m out on my bike. I like being nerdy looking at spreadsheets to create training plans to help people work out their best pace for races. I’m working on my own website called PacePlan that uses data to help people to get the best out of themselves so they can reach their potential on race day. An unusual fact? When I sneeze it sounds a lot like a party blower, Jenny says I’m very talented.
We met at Hitchin running club in October 2014. I’d only just started running so I was clinging on for dear life at the back of the group looking like a tomato on legs and trying not to spontaneously combust. Graham, who was one of the speedy people at the front, decided this was the perfect time to start talking to me. It’s a miracle I survived since I hadn’t yet mastered talking running and breathing all at once! We went out for a drink that weekend. 5 months later we were moving in together and shortly after that our sausage dog, Rizzo, came tearing into our lives to make the family complete.
We were in Southwold for the weekend with my parents. It’s our favourite place in the world. We constantly daydream about moving there, opening up some sort of shop that sells bikes, beer and chocolate brownies. Living out our days by the sea, eating nothing but Café 51’s French toast. I had no idea Graham was going to propose. I’d made him go out for a run with me that morning, and then fannied around taking photographs of the morning sunshine on the sea. I Insisted on looking around all the shops on the pier, not knowing that Graham had a diamond ring in his pocket and was getting increasingly nervous. He was acting a bit shifty…
Eventually we made it to the end of the pier once I was done faffing and looked out at the view, with two fishermen either side of us. I thought Graham was about to ask me to go and get him an ice cream and the next thing I knew he was down on one knee! My initial response was shock, then “are you sure!?” I mean, a lifetime of putting up with me is a pretty bold move) before, of course saying yes. The fishermen studiously ignored the entire situation.
We scampered back into town, located my mum and dad (in the Adnams shop – classic). They’d known Graham’s plans all along (sneaky things) and we went to the Lord Nelson for drinks to celebrate. It was completely perfect and totally us.
We wanted our day to be about us and our loved ones celebrating together – not about pomp and circumstance, or doing things because “that’s what you do at weddings”. We wanted a relaxed environment, to be able to pick and choose the traditions that suited us and to have fun!
We started planning right away because I really wanted an autumn/winter wedding. We met in October and got engaged in November so it just felt right. I was too impatient to wait 2 years, so we only had a year to get everything sorted.
We started with the venue. Henham Barns was the first venue we went to visit. We did go and see another venue after that, we pretty much knew from the minute we walked in that it was right for us! It was close to Southwold, gave us the freedom to have our day however we wanted (no being tied to a particular caterer or crazy expensive drinks packages). It had such a good vibe to it.
Next up was catering. Cafe 51 is one of our favourite places to go and stuff our faces when we’re in Southwold. As soon as I found out they did weddings it was an obvious choice. We really didn’t want weird fancy “wedding food” looking at your plate and thinking “okay where’s the rest”. I knew Sam and Alison would be able to create a menu for us that was delicious and special without being pretentious.
Then we found you guys! We wanted to find a photographer who would be able to capture amazing photographs and all the little moments of the day, without forcing everyone to stand around for hours posing like awkward Thunderbirds. The minute we saw your beautiful instagram feed and noticed a reference to cats and cups of tea in your bio, we knew you guys would be perfect.
Overall in the planning process, the big things were the easiest to sort as we didn’t really overthink it and just went with what felt right. It was the little things that tied us up in knots. It probably didn’t help that we were both in full crazy Ironman training when we started thinking about it. So we had no time and we were both permanently knackered. The things we ended up arguing about were so stupid in hindsight – like what to put the confetti in or what the table plan sign should look like! We got there in the end though and on the day it was worth it!
My mum was brilliant and came with me to several bridal shops. In my head I envisaged something long sleeved, close-fitting, plain in front party in the back! But, me being me, I had to try on every single type of dress just to “make sure” that was definitely what I wanted. After several appointments, I ended up going back to the very first dress I tried on. a Justin Alexander number that was, you guessed it – long-sleeved, close-fitting, plain in the front with a super fancy, super embellished back. And buttons! All the buttons.
My mum bought my dress for me, we got it from Shades of White in St Ives. We could have bought it at a shop closer to where we both live but we felt more comfortable with the ladies in the shop at St Ives. I really liked that they do all of their alterations in-house. My advice to other brides would be – you’re going to end up spending a lot of time with your bridal fitting advisor/seamstress so make sure they’re lovely!
Graham didn’t want anything too formal, and he had a slightly vintagey, tweedy look in mind. I came across a suit shop in Bedford (The Vintage Suit Hire Co.) that had a suit called ‘the Southwold’. It was definitely a sign! He went across and tried a few of their suits on and ended up opting for a grey tweed number, with navy ties. The great thing about Vintage Suit Hire is that you have the option to either buy or hire the suits. Graham bought his and his groomsmen and my Dad were able to hire. They also had some really snazzy accessories on offer, so they all had different animal pins on their lapels and a pocket watch.
We wanted a cosy, wintery vibe – foliage, fairy lights and candles. We got the lovely ladies from Boomting Bunting in to take care of the big stuff. A fairy light canopy hanging from the roof in the main barn and a cream aisle runner with lanterns filled with greenery in the ceremony barn. Henham Barns already looks amazing even without any decor, so we didn’t have to do too much to it really. The high ceilings and the brushed concrete floors combined with some super cool lighting give it a really nice cosy, rustic feel.
We did our own centerpieces and kept it really simple – three candles with a wreath around them. We decided to do away with your typical wedding favours. A lady I work with has a calligraphy business Calligraphy by Laura Bailey . We asked her to write everyone’s name on brown paper gift tags. I then baked a whole load of shortbread biscuits in the shape of hearts and packaged these up. Attaching the gift tags so our favours doubled up as place cards. This seemed like a great idea until I realised that baking, icing and packaging 110 biscuits is quite a big job. I shouldn’t have left until the week before the wedding. Mum to the rescue. I think I’d still be icing now if it wasn’t for her coming to help me!
I would have loved to have done more DIY stuff, but we moved house, did an Ironman in Switzerland, went to Hawaii for Graham to compete at the Ironman world champs and I started a new job all while trying to plan the wedding so we just didn’t have the time. (Note from Neil&Lisa…yes, you will need to read that sentence again, incredible)
Oh gosh do we have to pick one!? The whole day was just a series of amazing moments. Seeing each other for the first time at the end of the aisle. Walking out and being pelted with confetti by all our friends and family. Seeing everyone enjoying themselves on the dance floor and getting to share a dance with my Grandpa. One of our favourite moments was the few minutes we had alone just after the ceremony (something Lisa and Neil advised us to do. Such a great shout, thanks guys!) where we got to just take it in and have that “omg we just got married” moment. The day is a whirlwind so having that moment was really important.
Our faces were aching the next day from smiling so much so, apparently everything! The confetti was kind of hilarious! There was so much of it and our guests definitely did not hold back when it came to chucking as much of it at us as possible. We were still finding it in “unusual” places a few days later! Attempting to pose for photographs while being battered by the Suffolk coast wind. Trying not to step in Sheep poop also had us giggling away!
Our first dance as we (slightly drunkenly) decided to limber up as if we were about to do an Ironman and then spent most of the song trying to decide if we were a) sober enough and b) brave enough to attempt “the spin”. Something we’d practiced in the kitchen a few times and that had almost resulted in Graham catapulting me through the patio doors. We played it safe and went for a civilised sway.
I also had to laugh when I discovered that I couldn’t actually figure out a way to pee while wearing my dress. It was super tight-fitting so I couldn’t hike it up, and undoing it involved about half an hour’s worth of tiny little buttons! Thankfully Lisa is a secret wedding dress button ninja and helped my Mum and my bridesmaids to undo just enough buttons to er… get the job done. Nothing says classy and fabulous like having to straddle a loo.
My dad walking in and seeing me for the first time. Lisa captured him bursting into tears in a series of photographs that I absolutely love. Graham’s vows almost had me going during the ceremony. I think the speeches got pretty much everyone in the room shedding a tear at one moment or another.
Our favourite one of us together is out in the fields at Henham Barns. It almost looks like we’re dancing together as the wind has caught my hair so it makes it look like Graham is twirling me around. Other favourites (I mean, come on guys asking us to choose just one is mean!) include:
– The one of Graham walking down the middle of the road in Southwold before the wedding wearing his suit. with a dog bed in one hand and our sausage dog Rizzo tucked under his arm in the other – ears flapping in the breeze. Rizzo’s grumpy face at the indignity of being carried makes us laugh every time.
– The one of Graham pulling a cheeky thumbs up in the ceremony at Henham Barns.
– The silly faces shot!
– The photos of me dancing with my Grandpa
On the day – despite the fact that the weather at Henham barns was horrendous – we wouldn’t change a thing. In the run up, maybe for the sake of our sanity – not try and plan a wedding while also moving house, starting a new job (Jenny), doing the London marathon (Graham), competing at Ironman Zurich (both), moving up to a more challenging job role (Jenny) and swanning off to Hawaii less than a month before the big day so that Graham could race the Ironman World Champs.
It was just a little bit hectic, but what’s life if you’re not swim-bike-running by the seat of your pants? I think the main thing would be not to worry so much about the smaller details (it’ll be alright in the end). Do ask for more help, earlier. I have a bad habit of trying to take the entire world on my shoulders and refusing to delegate. I wish we could go back in time and relive the whole day. It was just the absolute best day ever.
1) Don’t worry about trying to please other people or adhering to what might be expected just because “it’s tradition”. Always remember that the day is about the two of you, your love for each other and sharing that with your favourite fellow humans. There’s a whole lot of politics and expectations that can start flying around with weddings. Keep hold of what’s important to you as a couple. Whether that’s going for the traditional or going for something completely off the wall. You do you, and you’ll have the best day ever.
2) Don’t underestimate the importance of working with suppliers that you genuinely get on well with. You’ll spend a lot of time talking to them in the run up and they’ll be a huge part of your day. We were so lucky that we had such amazing people around us on the day. They helped things to run smoothly and they were all genuinely such lovely people.
3) At the end of the night, send your new husband to raid the venue fridge for leftover wedding cake. 1am cake is never a bad idea.
‘Lisa and Neil are wonderful! They are amazing photographers. They”ll capture your Henham Barns wedding day perfectly. All the tiniest moments that will make you smile when you look back . They’re also really lovely people. They made us and our guests feel so at ease and went above and beyond to help our day run smoothly. The incredible photographs they got for us are the icing on the cake! Thanks so much Lisa and Neil – you’re the best! ‘ Source – Google reviews.
Venue: Henham Barns
Catering: Cafe 51 – Southwold
Booze: Adnams (when I die, please bury me with an after-lifetime’s supply of white burgundy) Adnams
Videographer: Roseanne Cooper (RXC Rose) https://rxcrose.com/
Hair and makeup: Rosie Kefford https://www.rosiekeffordmua.com/
Dress: Justin Alexander, bought at Shades of White St Ives who also did the alterations https://www.justinalexander.com/ https://www.shades-of-white.co.uk/
Suits: The Vintage Suit Hire Co. https://www.vintagesuithire.co.uk/
Calligraphy: Laura Bailey https://www.facebook.com/calligraphybylb/
Venue styling: Boomting Bunting https://www.boomtingbunting.com/
Cake: Two Magpies Bakery
Latitude festival – https://www.latitudefestival.com/
Flowers: Wild Frost