This was an unusual event: my husband and I had got married in a Registry Office, then had got a Church Blessing seven years later…and another seven years later we decided to renew our vows and have the BIG party we’d always wanted. We wanted it to have the feel of an old-fashioned Village Fete but also a Bellringing theme because we are very involved in that scene (known to some as “Campanology” but not usually called that by the people who do it!).
To achieve the Village Fete effect we needed lots of people, so apart from the personally invited guests (VIPs) we issued “open invitations” to various groups we are involved with: our church, Scottish District Society and various choirs we’d been singing with. This meant we didn’t know the exact numbers of people who would come (I think it was about 250 in the end, throughout the day), so we asked people in the invitations to bring food and drink to share, complementing our signature offerings which were a spit-roast pig (on an old-fashioned open spit…so much more fun!), 2 large chocolate fountains with a dipper buffet, an old-fashioned Popcorn Cart, Welcome Punch (both alcoholic and without), a barrel of beer, some wine and soft drinks, and coffee and tea. This also gave us extra budget for entertainments and it all worked out great and people had tons of fun.
The day started at a pretty little village church where we sang our vows to each other and also had a “Scratch Choir” with lots of our singing friends which made for good music and a memorable atmosphere. From there we moved to the church in town where both, my husband & I as well as father in law, were members of the bellringing team. The church has long-draft bells that are rung from the floor inside the church which meant all the guests could see the ringing and our Tower Captain also rigged up a monitor so that the guests couldn’t just hear the bells but also see them moving along with our pulls. Most of them had never seen any of this before and thought it a special treat. Change Ringing is a very British thing, practically unknown on the continent although practised a little in some Commonwealth countries. It is quite difficult both physically (technique) and mathematically (in working out the pulls and learning the different methods).
Finally, we moved on to my father in law’s place where we had the party in the garden. We had a large VIP marquee with decorated round tables and a smaller one with benches and bench tables for everyone else, a mini marquee connecting them with the food tables in it, and another freestanding marquee for the dance bands…a precaution due to the vagaries of British weather… In the end, we had glorious sunshine, in fact the first blazing day of the year, and people pulled the chairs out or brought their own to sit in the sun or in the shade of the apple orchard.
For entertainment we had an adult grade bouncing castle, mainly frequented by boys of all ages; a croquet field set up on the lawn on the other side of the house where people played on and off all afternoon; the pool was open, too; and the main attraction during the afternoon and evening were a Scottish Country Dance band and a Barn Dance band who took turns playing so that with the exception of dinner time people could dance (and did!) all the time. We also had an Instant Photo Booth set up in the main marquee with lots of props – this was the type that gives people four photos printed together and a memento note in the corner which had a photo of Sean & me after our Church Blessing seven years before. Then there was a caricaturist for several hours in the afternoon who drew the funniest pictures of the guests and went down really well with everyone. The drawings and photos served as guest favours. For evening programme we had our Handbell Choir (which included my husband, myself and one of the bridesmaids!) playing some well known folk tunes that people could sing along with, followed by more folk songs from a local group of singers (also friends) and a synchronised fireworks after dark to the tune of The Magnificent Seven which was a glorious and quite unforgettable finale; everyone just loved it.
There is also a story behind the two “wedding cakes” which were topped with the numbers 14 and 40. Unbeknownst to us the very day we had chosen for this party was the 40th anniversary of an aunt & uncle and they were quite sad not being able to have their own celebration – well, they had it some weeks later. As a little thank you for conceding to us, and attending, I baked a second stack of cakes for them – the funny thing is that Ruth (the aunt) helped decorate the cakes with cream and strawberries on the day and never realised the significance of the 40 on top! If you look at the photos, you can see them in the background with their hands to their mouths, still in shock from the announcement of their special celebration and their cake which they then duly cut. The little cake in the middle was for a new-born – which hadn’t made an appearance yet! The mother was there, round as a ball, and happily went into labour (well overdue) the next day, on account of all the dancing she said…
The decorations reflected both the bellringing theme, and the rustic village fete. In some photos you can see a set of bell ropes suspended from the ceiling rose in the marquee. The round tables were named after different change ringing methods (as signs in empty wine bottles) and had laminated photos of bell towers and ringing and other related activities/items and laminated method ringing diagrams. Also in the marquee was a display table with bellringing memorabilia and information and two sets of children’s handbells for people to have a go with. The table also had a large scrapbook of our wedding photos for people to reminisce over and a homemade guestbook (made from kraft paper).
What People Ate
Spit Roast Pig and a huge bring & share buffet
What People Drank
Welcome Fruit Punch (version with and without alcohol); special ale from local microbrewery; wine; soft drinks; tea/coffee
White & dark chocolate fountains with a buffet of dippers; popcorn with toppings; additional mixed desserts on bring & share buffet
Drawings from caricaturist Paul Baker; memento photos from the photo booth
Activities / Games
Adult bouncy castle; Scottish Country Dancing/Barn Dancing; croquet; swimming pool; photo booth; caricaturist; handbells to try