Me & My Wedding: An Inclusive Celebration In The Cotswolds

From the proposal to the cake, the flowers to the dress, we love hearing what goes into making someone's big day their own. For Toby and Mikey, a traditional celebration with friends and family in the Cotswolds was a long time in the making. If you're after some inspiration, here’s what made their wedding so special.

The Engagement

Mikey and I had been a couple for about six years before we got engaged in August 2019. We’d booked a night away at Foxhill Manor in the Cotswolds and I had an inkling he was going to propose. We’d discussed marriage, but I just felt he was going to do it there. So, I booked for us to go away for two nights before that in Cheltenham and bought a ring from our favourite local jeweller. You could say I wanted to beat him to the punch! I collected every single card we’d ever given each other and had them bound in a book by a small shop in Bath. The last card was one asking Mikey to marry me, and I got down on one knee. Then, at Foxhill Manor, the waitress kept asking us if we wanted to eat our pudding outside. I kept dismissing it, but Mikey insisted. We went outside and there was a candlelit path with champagne waiting. Mikey then proposed to me as well with a ring from the same jeweller – a total coincidence.

The Flowers & Décor 

Emma from The Bespoke Flower Company was already working on the festive décor and flowers for the hotel, so I cheekily asked her if she wouldn’t mind adding some decorations that might be fitting for our wedding during the same week. It’s always worth asking your venue if they employ a florist and whether they could add something a bit special for your wedding – it helps you save a bit of money, while still looking really intentional.

The Venue 

We found a venue we liked quite quickly. I wanted quite a traditionally English wedding and to save us from the temperamental weather, we decided to do it in winter. The Painswick is a small boutique hotel in the Cotswolds, and we fell in love with it straight away. We knew we could rely on them for beautiful décor and food, but we knew we’d have to bring in other suppliers too, in order to bring our vision to life.

The Photographer & Videographer

Our photographers were Sam and Diana from Green Antlers Photography, who are local to the Cotswolds. Their style is very relaxed – I hate anything too staged – which fitted the laidback vibe of our day. We also hired a videographer, even though I was sceptical. However, Mikey’s mum was adamant and now that we have our wedding video – courtesy of Aurora Wedding Films – I’d say it’s one of the best decisions we made.

The Delay

Pretty much all of what we’ve discussed so far was in place pre-pandemic. Then, on the first day of lockdown in March 2020, Mikey and I realised our original date (set for that December) wasn’t going to happen. Despite the narrative at the time, we suspected it would just drag on a lot longer than people expected. Luckily, we had wedding insurance in place and eventually pushed the wedding back until December 2021

The Wedding Outfits

Initially, we’d planned to wear about four or five different outfits throughout the day – each of us. It was all quite extra, but we eventually landed on simple, well-made black velvet tuxes with dark velvet bow ties from Gieves & Hawkes. They were then fitted by a local tailor. I wore a pair of patent Louboutin shoes and Mickey wore Jimmy Choos. For the evening, I changed into black Converse embroidered with my initials.

The Bridal Party

I had quite a clear vision for the bridal party from the outset. I had four bridesmaids, including my sister, on my side and didn’t want anything too matchy-matchy. I wanted a bit of clashing colour and pattern – I’d seen a high fashion shoot a couple of years ago for Gucci which inspired the look and feel. My sister wore a simple, backless A-Line dress from ASOS that was about £80; one friend wore a floor-length orange silk dress and another wore a darker strapless wool jumpsuit from Whistles. On Mikey’s side, both his sisters were bridesmaids, and they wore patterned dresses – one came from French Connection and the other from NET-A-PORTER.

 

The Ceremony

We had a string quartet playing ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ as we walked down the aisle. We also wrote our own vows – something that wasn’t in the original plan, but I’m so glad they reflected our relationship. One of my bridesmaids then did a reading, another read an original poem about myself and Mikey, and we exited the aisle to ‘God Only Knows’ by the Beach Boys

The Food & Drink 

We had a drinks reception with canapés immediately after the ceremony. We had pink Taittinger available throughout the day (Mikey’s favourite champagne) and served local reds and whites with the meal afterwards. The Painswick is a very foodie location, and Jamie – the head chef – had given us a tasting about five months before the wedding so we could choose exactly what we wanted. For canapés we had ginger crab gougères; parmesan and spring onion arancini; sweet potato discs with vegan pesto and sundried tomato; and fried butter milk chicken.

For the main meal, we had options including scallops; ox-cheek ravioli; roasted cod; or Beef Wellington. For dessert there were choices of sticky toffee pudding, lemon tart or crème brulée. Afterwards, we had a cocktail hour serving espresso martinis and a couple of other signature cocktails. Our wedding cake came from Hannah Culley’s Cakes and was three tiers – lemon curd, Biscoff and raspberry and white chocolate. We also had a ‘cheese cake’ made up of five tiers of different cheeses and a few grazing platters too.

The Entertainment

For the party afterwards, we hired Neil Carter from Dizzy Feet who had DJ'd a couple of parties for the royals. He asked us to send him about ten songs for him to base his playlist on, but I ended up sending about 380. What can I say? I’m a musical theatre kid… Most things wrapped up by 1am. Some people stayed up later, but I was so drunk I had to go to bed!

The Day Before & After

We had exclusive use of the venue, so we hired it from the Friday to the Sunday and invited our closest family and the bridal party to stay for the weekend. On the Friday night, we had a private dinner upstairs and then I spent the evening chatting with my four bridesmaids. After the wedding, on the Sunday, we invited as many people as we could fit into the hotel dining room to have a big brunch before they set off.

The Mini-Moon

Right after the wedding – on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – we did a little tour of some hotels we’d wanted to go to for quite a long time. The Rectory in Crudwell, Homewood in Bath, The Bloomsbury in London and The Franklin in Knightsbridge. We’re really into food, so we took it as a chance to enjoy ourselves after being on quite strict health plans leading up to the wedding. For our one-year anniversary, we’ll go to Thailand.

Advice For Other Couples

For gay couples specifically, it’s so important not to have a wedding that doesn’t reflect your style. Being part of the LGBTQI+ community doesn’t mean you have to have a ‘camp’ or very ‘extra’ day. Mikey and I wanted something quite traditional, and that’s what we went for. There shouldn’t be pressure to invite certain people to your wedding, either – especially if they haven’t been supportive of your relationship. We only had 60 guests at our ceremony, which might not sound that small, but we only included immediate family. We then extended the invitation to aunts and uncles for the evening, but many didn’t come. 

Otherwise, definitely get a videographer and spend money on the photographer you want. We also had a guestbook next to a photobooth at the reception, which gave us lots of candid photos and messages to look back on. Don’t stress about the small details – I got far too caught up about a particular kind of eucalyptus berry for our buttonholes, but you don’t end up caring about these things on the day itself. It’s supposed to be fun – the most important thing is to let loose with the people who matter to you.

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