Real Brides: Hazel’s Autumn U.K. Wedding

Hazel and Steven Thomas held a traditional English Wedding Breakfast with an autumn theme for their big day


Hazel's UK Wedding



Date: October 8th, 2016

Venue: Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa, Newbury, U.K.

Photographer: Natalie Moore


Hazel's UK WEdding


Hazel and Steven met at work, as many couples do, and had to keep their relationship a secret for a period of time until Hazel moved to a different department. The couple realized they had serious feelings for each other while they worked together, but what brought them even closer was that they discovered a mutual love of classic cars. Hazel even worked a classic cars theme into their autumn wedding, with a photo of their car on the wedding cake.

How he proposed: We had been together 2 years when we went on holiday to Cyprus. Unbeknownst to me, Steven had gone without me to my parent’s house so he could ask my Dad for his blessing,and he secretly bought the ring. I did become a bit suspicious when packing for the holiday he was rather possessive over his suitcase, insisting that we each had our own suitcase and he wouldn’t mess with mine if I didn’t mess with this. But that was only suspicions, and a girl can’t live on those!  On day 1 of the holiday, we took a walk on the beach together after dinner.  I was walking along the line of the sea meeting the beach, allowing the sea to lap over my feet in the shallows when I noticed he was no longer at my side. In fact he was a few paces behind, scratching his leg. Out of concern I went back over to where he was thinking he had been bitten by a bug, just as I was about to bend down to take a closer look at the supposed bite he produced a box from behind his leg. Even though I’d had my suspicions I was really glad he had still managed to surprise me. Steven is not particularly a romantic, but his short words of proposal were sweet and I couldn’t be happier with his choice of ring. 


Hazel's UK WEdding rings




Caterer: Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa

Officiant: The registrar was from Newbury Registry Office, and was actually our neighbors mother which was really lovely.

Can you explain to us Americans what a ‘Wedding Breakfast’ is?  In the UK the ceremony start time is usually between 12 and 3. I’d say 80% at least of UK weddings have the ceremony start between 12 and 3 in the afternoon. The ceremony would usually be 30 minutes long, then you go outside for pictures to be taken and get a ‘welcome’ drink. Then after the Bride and Groom have got the pictures they want you move back inside for the wedding breakfast which can be very formal or more relaxed like ours was. The wedding breakfast is often a 3 course meal (not actual breakfast foods) served by waiters to the tables, but more and more commonly nowadays can be a less formal affair and people often opt for a buffet style wedding breakfast and/or have 2 rather than 3 courses. Usually the speeches are done during the wedding breakfast. 

From then you’d have tea / coffee served and a little rest chatting over tea and coffee before the evening reception starts. In the UK most couples will have extra people arrive for the evening reception that weren’t at the rest of the wedding. So you’ll have all day guests, and evening guests who turn up for the reception. The evening Reception usually starts at 7pm and will go on to 11pm or possibly later depending on the venue. People tend to have more guests to the reception that weren’t there for the rest of the day due to cost. Often guests will be served a cold buffet or something lighter such as bacon sandwiches during the course of the reception. 



Hazel's Wedding Cake


DJ/ Band: The DJ we booked was the DJ the venue recommended to us.

Cake: Delicious Dial A Cake (Dawn)

Linens: Standard white, provided by the venue as part of the package

Chaircovers: Due to budget we decided to forgo these. I don’t think anyone missed them at all. And I personally find chair covers rather annoying as they stop you being able to tuck your feet under the chair.

Wedding Planner: None. (Donnington Valley’s events coordinator was absolutely fantastic though.)

Florist: We didn’t have a florist as my bouquet, the wedding party’s corsages and the boutonnieres were silk flowers. My bouquet and the Bridesmaids wrist corsages were created by Hazel Walshaw from ‘Love To Marry’




Wedding Theme & Design: I wanted to bring the outdoors in. I’d always wanted to get married in Autumn and as a proper nature loving girl I wanted to bring the beautiful Autumnal season in to the wedding decorations. We also incorporated our love for classic cars in a subtle way- There was a Ford Cortina on our cake, and the tables were named after our favorite classic Fords.

Flowers/ Centerpieces used: Our centerpieces were gold birdcages on top of mirror plates. The birdcages were free from my husband’s sister who got married a couple years before and the mirror plates cost me £20 from a lady selling wedding decorations she’d used at her wedding.

Vows: We chose our legal vows from the choices given to us from the registry office. In England you have to say a certain set of vows to make the marriage legal, but there is a choice of different vows for you to choose from. On top of these we wrote out own vows to each other too. I was so full of emotion I really struggled to get my vows out.

Wedding Colors: Navy Blue and Gold


Hazel's UK Wedding


Wedding Party: I had two Bridesmaids, my sister, Trudy, and a very close friend, Dee. Steven had his best man, James and two ushers, Michael and Brett. We also had my Father and Steven’s Father in the same suits as the other groomsmen.

Bridesmaids Dresses: Navy blue, from Monsoon. My two Bridesmaid’s chose their dresses themselves when the three of us went shopping together. We went into a number of shops but the only shop we found anything either of them wanted to try on was Monsoon. Trudy and Dee tried on about 5 different dresses and there was only one clear winner as there was only one dress all three of us agreed on. It definitely was the right dress to choose too as it came out so well in the pictures!  I told them I had a budget of £100 for each of them. The dresses came in slightly over budget but I didn’t mind, I then just asked them to source and pay for their own shoes and accessories.

Tuxedos/ suits: Navy Blue trousers jackets and waist coats. The Groom had gold cravat and hankie while the groomsmen had cream cravat and hankie. We hired the suits from ‘Suits Direct’ at our local shopping centre. Each suit, including the trousers, jackets, waistcoats, shirts, cravats and hankies, came in around £70 which was much better than the other places we’d looked at. We paid for the suit hire but asked each groomsmen to wear their own shoes and cufflinks.


Hzel's UK Wedding


Wedding Dress: Trudy Lee gown. The dress was a sample sale that I had alternations done to add the lace around the neck line and the cap sleeves. My wedding dress was champagne in colour. I found the champagne coloured gown so much more flattering on me than the white or ivory gowns.

Shoes: I had two pairs of shoes! A pair of kitten keel shoes and an amazing pair of flats from Dune. I wore the heels up until part way through the post ceremony photos and then wore my flats for the rest of the day, as I am really a flats kind of girl.

Rings: We both chose to have plain yellow gold rings which we had engraved on the inside with each other’s names and the date of the wedding.

Jewelry: I wore a pair of pearl earrings borrowed from my Mum and the ‘tiara’ I wore was borrowed from Stevens Aunt. I didn’t wear a necklace or bracelet at all.The ‘tiara’ had been worn by Steven’s elder sister and two of his cousins on his wedding day. It wasn’t what I would have chosen myself but I was honored to wear it due to the family sentimental factor attached to it. I didn’t wear a necklace or bracelet at all.


Hazel's UK Wedding


What was your old, new, borrowed, blue? My Bridesmaid Dee bought me a blue garter to wear which she presented to me while we were getting ready in the morning. It was such a sweet surprise. Had she not bought me that garter I would have said my color theme was my something blue. The pearl earrings I wore were both old, and borrowed from my Mum, and the tiara I wore was also borrowed from Steven’s aunt. I classed my shoes as my ‘something new’.

First Dance Song: James Arthur; Say You Won’t Let Go
It took us ages to choose our first Dance Song, there were songs I liked that he didn’t like, and songs he suggested that I liked but didn’t think they were right for a first dance song. Then one day about 3 weeks before the wedding I was driving home from work and heard Say You Won’t Let Go on the radio and just thought, this is our first dance song. When I got home and played it to Steven I was so relieved when he agreed. It was nice that it had only recently been released so none of our family and friends would have used it, and when listening to it, it felt like James Arthur was singing about us.

Wedding Song: I walked down the isle to Sam Smith; ‘Stay with Me’.


Hazel's UK Wedding


Honeymoon details and location: We weren’t able to afford to book a honeymoon before the wedding, but a lot of guests gave us money as a wedding gift, meaning we were able to have a honeymoon. We got married on Saturday 8th, booked our honeymoon on Sunday 9th and flew to Fuerteventura (The Canary Islands) on Monday 10th. It was all such a whirlwind, but it was really fabulous to have that week just the two of us after the wedding.

Most Memorable moment: A moment that really stands out for me from the day is when my Dad saw me for the first time. I was in my dress with my hair and make-up done. Everyone else had left the room and I was stood there waiting for my Dad to come get me. I’ll never forget the moment my Dad walked into the room. I’ve always had a very good relationship with my Dad and his reaction was everything to me. Our photographer captured the moment beautifully. My Dad and I were both so emotional, I think for both of us it was the moment it really sank in that I was actually getting married.


Hazel's UK Wedding


Ford Cortina Cufflinks


Did you hand-make or DIY any wedding items? Oh YES! I loved hand making many of our wedding items. We spent £100 in Hobby Craft and 1 day making all our invitations. With the help of my sister Trudy and her boyfriend we collected leaves from a Hazel Tree then sprayed some blue and some gold. Then utilized Trudy’s calligraphy skills to write everyone’s names on the leaves to be used as place names for the wedding breakfast. I created a ‘wedding guess who’ game for people to play with during the wedding breakfast which took me some time but I was really happy with the result. I DIY’d a lot of elements but those are the ones I’m most proud of.

You and your husbands’ wedding advice: You will hear from everyone who is or has been married that the day goes quickly. I think the reason that so many people will tell you this is not only because it is very true, but also because you put so much time and effort into planning your wedding day for it to be over in the blink of an eye and you eating breakfast the day after unable to believe it is over. My advice would be to take time during your engagement for not talking about wedding planning. When you do allocate time to planning, plan for you, do not feel you have to have anything. If something isn’t important to you, then don’t have it, as on the day you won’t even notice most of the things you’ve spent time and money on.


Hazel's UK Wedding


Hazel Wedding Shoes


What was the biggest roadblock that you ran into while planning the wedding? The most difficult thing for us was with booking suppliers. I researched photographers for so long I made myself incredibly confused. The sheer number of photographers was so overwhelming. I really struggled to narrow it down. In the end I just took a deep breath and created a list of 5 photographers I liked the look of and that were in budget.  I then asked Steven which was his favorite, and thankfully for my sanity he picked the same person I did.
The over thing I found incredibly hard was choosing invitations. I knew of a number of individuals that created stationary I loved, who I had been following on social media for some time. Again the wealth of choices overwhelmed me and I just couldn’t make the decision. It was for this reason we decided the easiest option, strangely, was to make our own.

 Who/what gave you the most help in the planning process? My bridesmaids were incredible. Each of them helped me in different ways and were completely irreplaceable to me during planning. Dee scoped out wedding venues with me, planned my Hen Do and stayed with me the night before at the venue. Trudy learnt how to lace up my dress, helped me with wedding crafts and was incredible on the day helping things run smoothly.


Hazel's WEdding


Hazel UK Wedding


How much influence did your family/ fiancé have in the planning process?  I never wanted my fiancé to not be involved in the planning. To me it was not MY day, it was OUR day. After he proposed I told him I would not plan it without him. Steven and I planned everything together, we made the final venue decision together, chose our suppliers together, created the invites together, everything. We jointly chose the color theme and how to incorporate our love of classic Fords.
It was our wedding day and so we were both equally involved in all the big decisions and I’m so glad we did it that way as I didn’t want him to feel like a spare part on the day.

Which part of the process gave you the most stress? Getting people to RSVP. Why do people not RSVP? Why do you have to chase them to get the response on if they are coming or not? I believe this is one of the most stressful elements for all couples. Other than that it would definitely be choosing the photographer and invitations.


Hazel UK Wedding


Hazel's WEdding


What did you do that you found helped out with stress the best? Reminding myself that it really is just one day and whatever I am currently stressing about isn’t going to have a big impact on my life. I kept asking myself, “will this matter in 5 years time?” and if the answer was no I don’t myself not to worry about it.

Is there anything that didn’t go as planned? Quite a lot didn’t go as planned, but very little actually bothered either of us. One of our day guests and two evening guests didn’t turn up on the day, I didn’t get all of the formal family grouping pictures I was hoping to get, It rained a little and I couldn’t find the tiara in the morning and panicked a bit when my hairdresser was finished with my hair and we still hadn’t found it. We’d sent my sister’s boyfriend back to my house to try and find it and everything. We found it in a bag in the events room!  The only thing that bothered either of us out of all the things that went wrong was the guests not turning up, but even though we were upset they hadn’t been able to make it, we didn’t allow it to affect our day.  


Car on wedding cake


Hazel's Wedding breakfast


What was your favorite part of the experience/ event? The Sparklers. We arranged to have sparklers just before the reception started. When I was little I always loved sparklers, and as soon as we decided upon an autumnal wedding I put sparklers on our ‘must have’ list. Although sparklers are relatively common in the wedding industry as a whole, none of our guests had been to a wedding with sparklers previously which really added to the “specialness” of the moment.

If you could go back in time, what would you have changed?  I would have liked to have had our ceremony recorded. At the time I thought a videographer would be a waste of money. To a certain extent I still do. How often do you bring out your wedding photographs after the first few months of marriage, let alone a wedding DVD?! However, it would have been nice to have even just a friend or relative film the ceremony for us.


Hazel and Thomas's Sparkler exit



What did you do to save money? Pretty much everything was done to save money in comparison to average costs. Having a sample sale wedding dress, making our own invitations, buying second hand table decorations, borrowing my bridal accessories, having a two course wedding breakfast…


What was your biggest splurge? I struggle to think of something we splurged on, as I tend to think a splurge would be spending more than the average cost on something, which I don’t think we did for any element of the day. We did spend about the average cost on our wedding cake, so as the amount we spent on our wedding cake is about the same as the average spend I would say that was our biggest splurge. I am so pleased we did too, as it truly did look fantastic, and was the center of many guests’ pictures. Going for a professionally made wedding cake that reflected our style was worth the extra money.


Hazel's Wedding Breakfast


Thank you to Hazel for sharing her wedding story.  It’s great to learn about other wedding traditions across the globe!


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One Comment

  1. June 15, 2017

    Loved her wedding and that it was on a budget!

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