GREEN UNIONS: A very Personal Wedding at The Longhouse near Bruton in Somerset | Annie and Phil
3rd December 2016
When the lovely Emma Stoner sent me photos of Annie and Phil’s very personal wedding at The Longhouse near Bruton in Somerset in June 2016, I knew you’d like to read all about it. This down to earth couple wanted a wedding venue that celebrates all things local where they could entertain their family and friends, plus a broad of children, in the great outdoors in a relaxed and informal way. Emma’s photos really capture the relaxed and friendly vibe that the couple created and will give them very special personal memories of their wedding day for years to come.
Bride Annie told me all about their search for the perfect wedding venue and how the day unfolded - over to you Annie …
The Perfect Place
Phil surprised me by proposing in July 2015 so we didn’t have long to find a venue because we wanted to get married within the year! The dates we could do were limited to a month’s time-window during my summer break from medical school - I’ve just started my final year of training as a mature student.
We wanted to get married in the West Country because we have both spent a lot of time in the South-West, at Glastonbury festivals and holidays further west. We’re massive foodies too and we both love the food ethic of the South West, the abundance of local produce and the pride with which it is grown and made. However, we felt Devon and Cornwall were just a bit too far away from our home in the Midlands and for our guests to travel, so we were really delighted when we found The Longhouse in Somerset and Bruton was the perfect location, just a few miles from Glastonbury. In terms of the venue itself we really wanted an outdoors, garden-party feel to the day, so The Longhouse, with all its associated grounds was perfect.
This meant we could enjoy the whole afternoon outside, with lawn games (I just had to play rounders on my wedding day!) and fizz. The children’s area, with climbing frame, had plenty of space for the 14 children to run around and let off some steam. Everything made for a relaxed, fun afternoon. Eugene Portman played garden swing/jazz tunes on his baby grand piano outside which created a fantastic background for the afternoon games.
The Longhouse grounds were just so pretty too - we love the outdoors and wildlife, and the gardens were in full bloom - lots of purples and lavender (which matched our theme) and birds in the hedgerows tweeting away - it was truly perfect!
Simple, relaxed, outdoor fun, sunshine (we were lucky!), family friendly, unique and bespoke (hand made by us, not “packaged”) embracing all the local elements Somerset could offer. We tried to use small, local suppliers where possible. We really wanted to avoid the stifling “mass market wedding industry” and pressures/expense that sometimes goes with that (one venue we looked at wanted to dictate our timings and even our exact menu, which was such a far cry from what we wanted!)
The general vibe was afternoon high tea, with a very outdoorsy flavour.
The table themes were British Wildlife – we love the outdoors and this enabled us to show this with each table displaying a silhouette and footprint of our favourite animals. We wanted to steer away from too much hessian / festival / shabby feel and have a classy vibe to things too. The theme and colour accents were lavender and purples.
We had our wedding ceremony under the wooden oak gazebo in the garden and it was beautiful and intimate. Having our ceremony outside under the oak gazebo was an amazing experience and vineyard just to the side of the oak gazebo added to a spectacular backdrop. We were so fortunate that the much talked about ‘Bruton microclimate’ did us proud, not a drop of rain fell all day! We did have a contingency plan in case of bad weather, but were so lucky not to have to use it, and being outdoors was just perfect!
We were able to invite all our close friends and children for the whole day - it was important to us, even though our budget was small, that we could include all the broods of children that our friends have and also that the kids would not be constrained and had space to play, letting off steam and allowing their parents to relax.
The Longhouse is actually a children’s ‘outward bound’ type centre in the weekdays, hence the climbing frame and extensive grounds plus, the inclusive nature of the staff towards the children meant that we could enjoy an inclusive day, all the generations together.
As I had returned to University aged 33 to re-enter student-hood and to train as a doctor, our budget was limited but we also didn’t want to skimp on things as we wanted a proper knees-up and to properly celebrate with all our friends. At the Longhouse we could provide our own alcohol up until the end of the meal, which meant we could make savings there and ensure our guests we not thirsty! They also allowed us to put on a keg of local Bath Gem Ale for the beer drinkers.
We hand-crafted nearly everything ourselves with lots of help from friends and family - it was lovely to see everyone’s efforts come together actually, which was really apparent when our 12-strong team decorated The Longhouse on the Friday afternoon before the wedding. The cake, flowers and vases, confetti, bunting, decorations, stationery and table plans, invitations, menus, place-settings, favours, buttonholes were all handcrafted.
Phil’s Mum Jean had quietly and diligently worked away in the background for months making example stationery, vases, flower arrangements and the like, she’s a very special lady indeed! The confetti was dried petals from her garden which made it very personal.
I had originally wanted a knee-length tea dress, but this plan was soon abandoned once I’d tried on a few - as I’m sure is often the case, the real experts in the Bridal shops know exactly what style suits each body shape, and I did easily buy into the idea that this was my one chance to wear a big dress and so I should take it. I didn’t want to wear white or ivory, or anything too big and spangly, and definitely not strapless. And I ended up I wearing a light champagne long, slim A-line dress which suited me perfectly.
I have an incredibly good friend Jane - my “adoptive mother” - and she was able to help a lot with my outfit, trawling through the dresses at each shop, and there were several, her help was invaluable and it was a difficult decision as it’s a big investment. During one of the final fittings she spotted a beautiful hairband in a bridal shop which matched my dress perfectly. Jane leant me the pearls she had worn for her own wedding and I wore fabulous ivory/ gold shoes (not too much of a heel so I could still play rounders and not get stuck in the grass!). Other bits and pieces such as hair flowers, bag, etc. came from eBay for and were real bargains!
Local Bruton hairdresser Hayley (from Rachel’s Salon) did an amazing job with my and my bridesmaids’ hair. She listened intently and advised when we weren’t quite sure. Maria from Bristol Bridal Hair & Make-up did an amazing job on our make-up (in fact mine was still perfect the next day!) and really got into the spirit of the day, genuinely happy and excited to be there for us.
Phil, the two best men and two ushers hired suits from Formal Affair in Nottingham. Phil had originally wanted a grey suit and definitely no tails, but when he tried it on he just looked dressed for a day at work. The brown morning suit on display just looked fantastic and when he tried it on for fun it completely looked the part (and little did he know, toned-in with the gold tones of my dress perfectly)! So we went with that.
Phil’s Mum and Sister made the buttonholes. The rings came from a local, bespoke jeweller “Carolyn Codd” in Nottingham which allowed us to have exactly what we wanted and all at a very reasonable price.
My bridesmaids’ dresses were sourced from Jenny Packham; they loved these!
We are both very appreciative of good food and wanted, very much, to showcase that in our meal. We found Taste Catering, who frequently cater for Longhouse Weddings, fitted our requirements perfectly. Denise and Martin helped us plan a bespoke menu for ‘high tea’, including finger sandwiches, warm savouries (tartlets, Gloucestershire ‘old spot’ sausages, pork pies), followed by scones, jam, cream, and a selection of cakes. The breads, dairy, meats, cheeses were all locally sourced in Bruton and the surrounding area and the food was all made in Bruton by Martin in the Taste kitchen.
We served canapés just after the ceremony to celebrate our love of Indian food (and travel) and to give everyone something fairly substantial to power them through the afternoon before high tea was served at 5pm. We served little cups of assorted heart sweeties for the same reason, and these proved very popular! We wanted a wedding cake of cheese and had had fun cheese-tasting as one of the activities Phil planned during our engagement mini-break in Melton Mowbray. Having had all the sweet cakes served as afternoon tea, this became a practical way to provide a snack to our guests later in the evening, alongside breads, fruit etc. We also had several cheese-tasting sessions with friends and selected which cheeses we wanted, ordered ‘whole round cheeses’ of each and constructed our cake - two of our good friends were able to construct and decorate the cake on the morning of the wedding and what a professional job they did! Mice and bunting adorned the top!
After the feasting, we provided our own 80s & 90s disco via playlists for our evening dancing. We had hours of fun listening to literally “all the music” we’ve liked and enjoyed together, eventually ending up with a 5-hour playlist. Adoptive mother Jane’s son Sam (my ‘bro’) works in tech and was able to lend us lighting and tech equipment.
The Green Elements
- Buttonholes/corsages/table flowers – handmade with buckets of wild flowers, locally grown from “The Walled Gardens at Mells”.
- The Walled Gardens created my and my bridesmaid’s bouquets using their British grown flowers.
- All décor – handcrafted as above. We spend many weekends and evenings with card and glue gun crafting away, as did Phil’s mum Jean, my friend Lex (who made 40 metres of bunting for us!), my medic friend Anna was also often drafted in ,when we were overwhelmed by all the crafting, to lend a helping hand.
- The Longhouse: We didn’t realise this from the onset, but the family-friendly and family-owned Longhouse has an impressive eco Gold Star status – rainwater harvesting, solar thermal energy, sheep wool insulation. Visually and practically, it was exactly what we wanted – bespoke and not a ‘manufactured wedding venue’ – they only do up to 16 weddings per year, the gardens being beautifully adorned with wild flowers, the vineyard, lawns – stunning, and it embraced our vision of celebrating the outdoors. Its children’s activity centre “day job” meant it was naturally child-friendly so we didn’t have to ‘stage’ anything to entertain the children. The bunk accommodation offered also meant about 1/3 of our guests could stay in simple but practical on site accommodation in wooden-style bunk cabins.
- It was very important to us that our wedding was truly “ours” – by design, and to be enjoyed with all our favourite people celebrating with us. It was important it was embraced the countryside and the natural environment and was family friendly. Being ‘Eco’ as such was not primarily on our minds, but matches well with our principles.
- Waste: It was important that nothing went to waste after our day so food was packaged up and many guests were sent home with a milk-bottle of wild flowers and half a kilo of assorted cheese!
- All the décor will be recycled and given a new home with small elements used to decorate our own home!
Can you be both Stylish and Green on your Wedding Day?
Of course - and it’s important that it’s ‘your day’ and that you can go in the direction you want.
Tips for other Couples planning to Throw a Green Wedding …
There are so many suppliers out there - all of the smaller, local companies that we used were ultimately both better in their service and more economical, and we felt happier to support local, smaller businesses
Top Tip from the Groom
Don’t be too nervous, don’t panic, make lists!
Abi, the wedding co-ordinator at the Longhouse ensured everything went exactly to plan and, as a control freak myself, that meant so much to me! One specific special touch was that Phil was pretty stressed, and Abi advised me to give his hand a big squeeze when I got down the aisle to reassure him and calm his nerves. This I did (by all accounts it was quite a killer grip I had!). But this little communication to him, and between us, as we stood under the oak gazebo with a light breeze flowing around us, meant everything was just perfection from then onwards. Thanks Abi!
What does marriage mean to you both?
Ultimate friendship and dedication to our joint goals in life and the future.
Thank you so much Annie and Phil for sharing the story of your laid back, family friendly green wedding at the Longhouse in Somerset. I love the thoughtful way you planned to have an all inclusive relaxed day with your friends and their broods of children. Emma’s photos capture the joy and happiness wafting about the whole day.
Thanks also go to Emma Stoner for her fabulous photos. Annie and Phil had this to say about Emma:
"It was clear from the moment we found Emma that she was committed and passionate to her art and that we'd made the right choice. Communication was key and she asked all the right questions, leaving us confident we were in safe hands. Emma worked tirelessly on the day to ensure she got the perfect shots and this really showed in the results. Thank you so much for being part of our special day."
The Longhouse is one of our line up of handpicked eco friendly wedding venues listed in Green Union’s wedding directory. The beauty of all the venues listed on Green Union is that they really care about you as an individual and will never dictate how you should conduct your day or insist on anything that you do not want.
The Longhouse, Bruton: Matt, Abi (wedding coordinator) and the team
The Walled Gardens at Mells (Jodie)
Taste Somerset (catering by husband and wife team Martin & Denise)
Carolyn Codd Jewellers, Nottingham
Emma Stoner Photographer (with help from Isabelle Luscombe)
Hayley Butler of Rachel’s Hairdressing Salon, Bruton
Maria Lucas from Bristol Bridal Hair & Make Up
Eugene Portman, pianist
Cheeses and Mice: West Country Cheese
Formal Affair (suit hire), Nottingham
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