Last weekend was our first outdoor wedding of this year, and we had high hopes when we started the planning before Christmas. Perhaps the fact that the night of the tasting was also the only significant snowfall in Henley this February should have given us an indication of what was to come.
The plan was always for the ceremony to be held outdoors in the beautiful garden, which Sandra, Tana's mother, worked tirelessly to turn from winter gloom to a spring delight. Last minute bedding and some stunning architectural planting meant that, in spite of the relentless rain in the week before, the surroundings did look lovely.
We had alternative plans for a wet day eventuality, but we all knew Tana and James' hearts were set on the ceremony being outside, and after a nervous morning, a last minute decision was made to take advantage of a lull in the rainfall and go for it! Our staff placed the fantastic Ice Chiavari chairs out onto the lawn and white seat pads were added at the very last moment! Some of the guests were a little taken aback at the fact the ceremony would be under the trees, but with the help of umbrellas, blankets and a plethora of pashminas, everyone soon got into the spirit of things. Even when the bride kept everyone waiting for 15 minutes, there weren't any grumbles!
We don't normally get to see the ceremonial part of our client's big days, so it was lovely to be able to watch this time, although I have to confess to a tear or two!
Fiona from Henley Ceremonies led a beautiful service, with the mothers of the bride and groom being invited up to light a candle as part of the ceremony. Tana's cousin, Eve, gave a beautiful unaccompanied rendition of 'When I'm 64', by The Beatles, which was note perfect, and even added her own personalised lyrics part way through.
After the ceremony, guests moved inside for canapes and champagne. The chosen menu had a mediterranean slant, and for a walking starter we served tiny parmesan and rosemary shortbreads with feta cheese and sun-blush tomatoes, ciabatta crostini topped with white bean and sage puree, with diced tomatoes and olive oil, griddled beef fillet served on a croute with salsa verde, proscuitto-wrapped scallop brochettes with bearnaise dipping sauce and smoked salmon blinis with creme fraiche & dill.
While the guests enjoyed the food and drink, (and being honest, a little warm by the fire) our staff moved the chairs back to the marquee, and completed the set up there.
Tana and James had chosen a modern stretch-style marquee, from Lime Marquees, and had gone for a sophisticated, neutral palette of white, black and grey to decorate it. The grey check napkins, bunting and cake tablecloth were really brought together by the black lace runners which gave real depth and richness to the colour scheme.
The flower arrangements were again down to Sandra, with lovely cream roses and foliage in the stands bought in South Africa. Each place setting had a tea-cup and saucer filled with roses & rosemary, with a luggage tag name plate.
Baskets of ciabatta and rustic breads greeted the guests on arrival in the marquee, along with bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip. The main course was served in a tapas style, offering lots of top-ups to the guests. There was herbed roast sirloin of beef, served rare; pan fried sea bass fillets on a minted fennel and radish salad, and a selection of antipasta including
Serrano ham, salamis, bresaola, & chargrilled vegetables.
At the bride's father's request, there were bowls and bowls of garlicky parmentier potatoes, and succulent baked black figs stuffed with roquefort cheese and wrapped with proscuitto.
Cold salads included green French beans with toasted almonds and coriander vinaigrette; beetroot and borlotti bean salad with pine nuts and balsamic dressing; sliced vine tomatoes with red onion, basil and olive oil, and a rocket and sweet potato salad with red onion & citrus dressing.
Once we'd been to each table with seconds.... thirds.... and in some cases fourths (top table!), it was time to move onto dessert - a trio of raspberry creme brulee, chocolate cups filled with dark chocolate mousse and raspberry and lemon brandy snap baskets. The meal was rounded off with coffee, tea, champagne and speeches.
Once dinner was over, the guests once again repaired to the house while we cleared four of the tables from the marquee, to give room for the band and dance floor.
After the cutting of the cake and the first dance, once the music got started, the guests really got in the mood for dancing, and in spite of wind and rain throughout the evening, the majority of the guests were to be found on the dance floor - with the exception of around half an hour when we served burgers with bacon, cheese, guacamole and tomato and a selection of genuine Cornish pasties from The Chough Bakery in Padstow - even the Cornish guests were impressed with those!
The party wound down at around midnight, and special mention has to go to our wonderful bar staff, Aggie, Hannah, Helena and Rhiannon, who kept smiling throughout the evening, in spite of working in the client's bar made of a sideless gazebo which wasn't waterproof! The girls rotated between bar service and clearing, and I suspect there were happier than usual when it was their turn to collect empty glasses and plates from the marquee and house!
The road conditions on the drive home later that night made me realise how lucky we had really been, weather wise, and we could have had it a lot worse. So maybe the sun, however well hidden, was shining on Tana and James after all.....