Almost immediately after Stephen proposed, we started to formulate ideas for our wedding (more on that in future posts as photos are still coming through).
We decided that we would like to host it ourselves rather than have it at a dedicated wedding venue even though it meant a lot more planning (and a lot more stress as we were to find out). But it would also mean we would get exactly what we wanted so any stress would be well worth it.
We decided to pitch a marquee in the field next to Stocksfield Hall, because the area is so picturesque and beautiful and we could make use of Helen’s large garden (weather permitting).
We could also walk to and from the church at Bywell for the wedding itself. Next, we then had to think about how we wanted to decorate the marquee. In the end, there were only three elements we decided to use for the décor. I was happy with the white fabric walls and ceiling of the tent;
I wanted classic white linen for the tables; and I wasn’t fussed about spending a fortune on the floorcovering: standard grey carpet was fine with the dance floor in classic black and white checks. I did want gold bamboo chairs with burgundy velvet seats,
but most of all, an abundance of flowers. The flowers would be left to someone else (details and photos in another post). But we had to deal with the lanterns and arrangement of tables. The idea for the lanterns came from the film “Australia”.
Soon it became apparent to me that I wouldn’t have a whole team of electricians to wire in and light my arrangement of lanterns (as they would on the film set) and I was going to have to get creative myself. Getting creative is not a problem, but it is irritating when logistics and practical matters get in the way of a vision. My problem was suspending them. The marquee was 30’ wide x 90’ long and did not have vertical poles running throughout holding the roof up. The roof of the tent has a metal frame and I could hang things from the metal frame, but it dictated where the lanterns would have to go. Slowly my initial vision of lines of lanterns crisscrossing the room, each lit by a bulb, was disappearing.
The expense of getting a bespoke lighting system in place was prohibitive and it would be a problem to have these running across 30 feet without being propped up every so often. No, it just wasn’t going to happen as I wanted.
I did spend a great deal of time obsessing and losing sleep about this. I had 60 lanterns and just couldn’t figure out how to do it in as nice as way as they had in the film. In fact, there was no way I was going to be able to work this out until the tent was up and I could actually hang them. But that didn’t stop my mind from running on a loop. We were lucky in that the tent company, Collingwood Marquees, asked if they could erect the tent early, a full week before the wedding. That worked well in our favour as it gave us a few more days than expected should things go awry.
I did purchase 10 mobile frames. As I was reluctantly (and a bit petulantly I must admit) coming around to the idea that my initial plan was not going to work, I thought about grouping 4 lanterns together somehow and suspending them above each table.
After mulling this idea over, I decided I needed some sort of frame to do this and cottoned onto the idea of a mobile frame. The question was whether such a thing existed. Thankfully they did and I found a supplier on Etsy who supplies a set of 10 plain wood versions. Perfect. I ordered, they arrived and Stephen put them together and painted them metallic gold. I wasn’t sure if I would use them, but needed to have them on hand just in case.
We week before the wedding my stress levels were through the roof. This is when you really start to question the wisdom of planning a wedding yourself, especially one that involves a church ceremony, two receptions and 100 guests. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it would be worth it a million times over, and it was, but it was really, really mad getting there. Family were starting to come into town, last minute details had to be decided and finalised and at last I had to deal with the lantern issue amongst masses of other things. If I couldn’t get these lanterns to work nicely, it would break my heart. And our tent would look very plain indeed. This was the only decoration “up high”.
My Dad and brother-in-law gamely offered to help Stephen and I. Both are seriously organised, practical and methodical people (one was an engineer, the other is an architect) so I had hoped that this would be a good thing, but also worried it might be a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth and we would have a massive family drama right before the wedding. Thankfully, it ended up being the former. Somehow all 4 of us got the measure of what needed to be done, how to do it and got on with it.
Stephen and I knew we would have to come back later in the week to finish details and tidy, but in the main the lanterns were in place. There was no way for me to light them as I had wanted, but I did get a whole load of battery operated flickering “candle” lights.
The box said they ran for 120+ hours. We tested one and to our delight, it went for days so we were able to put them in the lanterns and turn them on 2 days before the event (which saved someone having to rush and do it the day of). As it is so light in the summer, we knew we would only get a short spell of glow coming from the lanterns but it would still be a nice effect.
We had some lanterns left over so I gave them to Helen to use in the garden so that the theme was carried through (click HERE to see the post about the garden).
Photos by Helen Morris & Stephen Egglestone