For couples who have the countryside close to heart, there is only one serious choice when it comes to wedding venues- and that is a beautiful outdoor event. We love these celebrations at Northcote Manor Hotel. They not only look beautiful, but provide endless scope for fun and creativity.
Even a traditional wedding gains a breath of fresh air from being hosted in a lovely outdoor location; whether you go for a vintage feel or delight your guests with summer games and surprises, there are so many possibilities for unique weddings. Getting married outdoors definitely adds more freedom and scope for themes and seasonality too; so without further ado, here are some tips and ideas to put the magic into country house weddings:
Devon couples are especially blessed when it comes to classic summer venues; but in truth it is possible to exchange your vows outdoors in all seasons these days. Whether it’s a specially constructed shelter or a timelessly romantic summer house, you are sure to have beautiful wedding pictures. It can be costly to set up your own shelter or marquee however, so it's likely to be safer and better value to pick an established venue, who will also know how to handle an unlucky shower or two!
Our own specially constructed Sanctuary for outdoor weddings is covered and will seat 30 special guests for intimite occasions, with plenty of standing room for extras. But we can also be adaptable and move indoors should the weather not cooperate. It defintiely pays to have a plan B and sheltered areas, so do scope out your location carefully; most rustic wedding venues in Devon and elsewhere will be only too happy to give you the grand tour without pressuring you to commit. Do pay close attention to size and also be sure to include any special instructions on your invites, whether it's directions to a private location or a reminder to bring an extra layer.
Bailing out some seating: Rustic features & decorations can be affordable as well as fun (image: Festival Brides/ Pinterest)
Once you have settled on a venue, the fun really starts in earnest with the huge possibilities for how you deck out your event. Will you opt for rustic charm, or a manor house style elegance? We've seen everything from hay bales used as seating (great fun and very affordable!) to elegant garden party style layouts, with dapper chairs and cocktails on the lawn.
Wooden signs and other simple touches are personal and inexpensive (Image: Wong Quinnell Photography)
As for how you decorate guest areas, the possibilities are endless! Picking a basic theme will help. A simple, elegant country house style is one way, but other guests go for the look of a classic village fete or summer festival themed weddings. Wooden signs, chalkboards and classic bunting are all quirky and affordable ways to get your venue looking cute and clearly laid out. Go for local companies with personalised items for the best service and attention to detail (the best garden wedding venues will be able to provide you with trusted sources- such as our list of suppliers)
Bunting is cute, cost-effective and easily personalised (Image: ViviCreative/ Etsy)
Hosting your event in a classic garden setting also gives rise to some beautifully personalised and original ideas for flowers and table decorations. One instant advantage is that you won’t need to haul car loads of greenery to your venue! As for the table decorations, you could go for either classic tradition or more minimalist/ shabby chic.
A stately setting lends itself beautifully to classy and exuberant vases and table wear; but with greener suroundings you can also go more understated or a hand-crafted feel. Perhaps a selection of summer wildflowers with bottles or even hand-decorated jam jars? A touch of eccentricity won’t go amiss either, whether you want to incorporate wellies, watering cans or other props- provided it's not too bonkers, garden weddings give the couple extra artistic license.
Rustic charm: shabby chic vases look great and can be cheaply made or ordered (Image: These were produced by Otter Valley Trading Co, Devon)
In terms of flowers, understatement often brings its own rewards. You cannot go far wrong with cream or white main colours, augmented by pinks, yellows or pastel hues. Nor do you need rare or fancy blooms: which can rack up thousands of miles en route! Go for British seasonal classics, which add local character without the need for thousands of flower miles.
In the summer, species such as peonies, delphiniums and sweetpeas make a lovely addition to the likes of lilies and roses. Other seasons can bring extra variety however, such as blossoms, daffodils and bluebells in spring or for winter wedding bouquets you could look at narcissi and even holly.
Stylistically, the rural or garden wedding is also quite versatile when it comes to picking what to wear. Perhaps the golden rule is to keep it classic and simple. Modern garments are fine, but should be kept elegant and uncluttered. Or better still, why not opt for a nod to tradition?
Floral, old-school and hippie-chic designs suit the outdoors beautifully (Dress shown: Mona Bocca)
For bridal wear, old school wedding dresses with embroided designs are particularly well-suited, but you could also opt for something retro or hippie in feel, with a little flower power. You might also want to avoid long, trailing designs if the entirety of the day will be outdoors.
For the gents, rustic wedding venues also bring alternative possibilities beyond the standard dark suit. In fact, if it’s not too PG Wodehouse for your tastes, traditional tweeds can work a treat for the groom and male entourage.
Tweed designs add a little old fashioned country class for him (This suit & image: Knots & Kisses)
Last but not least, do make provision for the weather and advise your guests to do the same. Even if the weather is beautiful, evening temperatures can drop rapidly on clear spring and summer days. Quite often, organisers will add personalised extras from sun parasols to snug blankets.
If there’s one way to round off a perfect day in the countryside, it certainly isn’t a house DJ and thumping bass. You could go really traditional, in fact, with some classical chamber music or folk. Acoustically, this can be a little challenging, which is where working closely with your chosen venue is vital. Here at Northcote, we have had everything from traditional jazz to bagpipes, while we can think of few sounds more romantic than the tones of Devon harpist Emma Graham.
In and around the wedding ceremony, your guests are also sure to enjoy a little diversion whether this means a round or two of classic garden games or a special on the day challenge. Some of our guests have even gone the whole hog with a village fete theme and a whole host of fun fair style wedding games.
Guests of all ages will love a round or two of giant Jenga or Scrabble, while village fair style hoopla or skittles are also sure ways to entertain your friends and family. Excellent fun; but do expect the gameplay to get progressively worse after the second toast!
The other benefit of lawn games is that they are a brilliant budget solution for wedding entertainment. Low cost and high on fun, they are spot on as ice breakers. You can be as imaginative as you like- and we think eccentricity is all part of the Great British wedding. There is nothing unhealthy about seeing a grown man dressed to the nines riding a space hopper!
Are you looking get married in a beautiful open air setting? At Northcote, we have an idyllic location, great facilities and all the experience you need to host wonderful garden weddings in North Devon. See our dedicated weddings section for more on what we offer, from excellent food to year round wedding packages that start at just £3500.