How to describe Sophie & Raph’s wedding? Colourful, boho, creative, flower-filled, bare-footed and fun, with just the right amount of rivalry. They took on a lot, but with months and months of planning (thanks to Covid) and help from a huge crew of family and friends they pulled it off to absolute perfection. An outdoor ceremony, followed by an afternoon of picknicking and games, ceilidh, dancing and crowd surfing. A sailcloth tent, styled just so beautifully. Glamping, a bacon butty breakfast and pub lunch on the Sunday.
Sophie & Raph had already officially married in France a couple of months before, but held a ceremony on the hill at Hidden Valley to share the occasion with their friends and family. Seating from the marquee was set up, with plenty of colour from pot plants (from Sophie’s parents’ garden), and guests were welcomed to take a seat through the decorated doors.
Sophie chose to be dropped at the far gate, with her Dad, bridesmaids and flower girls, not forgetting the miniature pony Red and guests watched and waved as the little procession made its way across the field.
Sophie’s godfather performed the ceremony. “We wanted to keep it as personal and friendly as possible. He talked about the two oak trees being a symbol of our wedding, and to always think of this moment when we see pairs of trees or birds.
Friends and family did readings including a Winnie The Pooh extract about adventuring together.
We got married facing the incredible view of the Surrey hills, and the sun came out just as we exchanged rings. It was truly magical!”
After the ceremony, guests lined up to toss petal confetti over Sophie & Raph, who then led their guests into Hidden Valley.
Hidden Valley is exactly that. Secluded and tucked away. So much so that when guests arrive for a ceremony on the hill, they have no inkling of what is waiting in the field. Couples love the ta-da moment when guests walk down the hill and round the bend to see the wedding reception set up before them. We leave grasses longer in places, not only to benefit the wildlife, but because it looks prettier too.
Coastal Marquees had set up a large sailcloth tent. Beautiful Bells a curve of 13 bell tents. Rustic barrels and a mini tipi from Canvas & Light, further dressed the space with furniture provided by Surrey Wedding Company.
Various games were set out at different areas around the field. More about that later.
Their sailcloth tent, flying French and British flags looked fabulous, with an abundance of foliage, flowers and colourful styling touches. One third was given over to a dance area and bar and two thirds were set up with five long rows of banquet style seating.
A creative family, it was clear to see throughout every little touch of the day. Foliage from Sophie’s parents’ garden was attached to each king pole in the marquee with two large ladders filled with foliage and flowers hoisted up between the poles. At the front of the marquee was a huge display of summer flowers, pot plants, crates, giant vases, pallet order of the day, seating plans and the France vs. England chalk scoreboard.
Sophie and Raph had opted for rustic wooden tables and cross back chairs. Table styling focused on a different colour of runner and napkins per table, made by Sophie. Herbs and vases of flowers were dotted along each run of tables and each place setting had an individual wildflower on the plate. “We collected all the little bottles and vases from French charity shops.”
Flowers were a real feature, and brought in every colour imaginable. Flowers were sourced from Tracey at Hedgerow & Bloom. She grew the flowers in Farnham, then Sophie’s mum and neighbour did all the arranging. The ladder was arranged by a friend, Holly Rushby, who had recently opened a floristry business Rushby’s. Sophie’s Mum grew all of the pot plants in the garden. “I bought the dry flower crown leaves/flowers from Covent Garden flower market and we made them ourselves during my hen do weekend’”
The flower list to achieve the look included; peonies as the big statement flowers, dahlias, giant daisies, ranunculus, amaranthus, corn flowers, corn cockles, pretty much any British flower and wild flower that blooms in June!
Sophie’s bouquet was a loose tied gorgeous wild flower mix. Sophie’s seven bridesmaids and three flower girls wore flower crowns of eucalyptus and dry wild flowers and the two maids of honour carried scaled down bouquets. And each of the eight groomsmen wore a different colourful buttonhole. I loved the fact there was no set colour, with the theme just being as vibrant and varied as possible.
As guests arrived into the field, they were greeted by the groomsmen with a glass of fizz and we got the play list going. We had been busily preparing and arranging a delicious picnic lunch, (picnic food all made by English friends & family to introduce the French to Great British picnics). Along with a selection of welcome drinks including local English champagne (from Albury). There was a welcome toast by Sophie’s Dad Paul, with a translation and welcome speech for the French guests by Raph. The bell was used to get people’s attention to announce the next game. Sophie and Raph then cut their cake with bride and groom chicken toppers (because they have 3 little chickens) and an afternoon of games got underway.
These guys had gone all out on the outdoor games and really needed the dry weather and thankfully Mother Nature delivered, with sunny weather, but without the insane heat that would arrive later in the summer.
There were a few set games to get a bit of rivalry going between the French and English guests, with tug of war, horse racing and a good old classic game of bucket head golf. Sophie had come up with a unique invention to allow her to enjoy the tug of war in her dress. Genius. Luckily the score finished an uncontroversial 3 each
Sophie wore a beautiful low backed gown from Vague Blanche Mariage with floral lace bodice and flowers continuing down onto a beautiful tulle skirt. A second-hand elbow length veil from Sell My Wedding, and shoes from Dune.
Raph wore a three piece, blue textured suit from Serrada Couture with a white shirt and burnt ochre tie. The groomsmen wore matching two piece suits from Zara and ties from The Tie Garden Etsy.
The bridesmaids’ dresses were very boho with two fabric choices from Sophie, a pastel blue floral print and mixed oranges and reds from Primark and Nobody’s Child.
The flower girls wore handmade peasant style embroidered dresses of blue, ochre, terracotta, and mustard from Tugu Titoune, Sophie’s own brand.
When it was time to move in to the marquee, guests were ushered in for the meal starting with sharing platters. On each table one guest had been allocated a chef’s hat, hidden under their chair. This guest had been nominated to collect and carve the meat for their table.
With Fire provided a delicious served BBQ menu. All the delicious details are below.
/ Barbecued legs of lamb with almond, mint, & honey dressing
/ Cedar planked hot salmon with fennel & citrus
/ Vegan miso roasted aubergine with maple syrup, ginger, & coriander
/ Pearl barley salad with feta
/ Zesty slaw with carrots, apples, cabbage, gherkins, capers, mint, & parsley
/ Fire roasted heritage carrots, ricotta, & honeycomb
/ Brebis – Traditional sheep’s cheese from the Pyrenees, with cherry jam & English crackers
/ Sophie’s mum’s lemon crunch and chocolate pots with summer berries
Following the meal, fizz and cheese was served, the traditional French accompaniment to the speeches. Starting with Raph’s parents, Paul the Father of the bride, Sophie, Raph and then Raph’s two Best men, Tap Tap and Manu.
The Three Cockerels provided a full bar with Raph’s special drink, a Ti’ Punch which the couple drank on a Caribbean holiday.
After the feast, it was time for some photos, Sophie and Raph’s first dance to No Matter Where You Are by Us The Duo (from The Book Of Life) and then straight into a couple of very energetic Ceilidh sets. When finished, the band got Sophie and Raph’s playlist going, which played till the end of the night.
“Hidden Valley was the perfect place to reflect us as a couple. We love nature and the great outdoors. It was an amazing space for all the fun games we had planned to bring our English and French family and friends together, without the awkward small talk!
Having 2 days to set up was great, as we had so much hands-on DIY to do, and we could spend the time enjoying it with our wedding party. And being able to spend the night around the campfire and glamping in the field after the wedding, meant that we could continue our celebrations for a whole weekend.
We couldn’t have done it without Nikki! With plenty of phone calls and meetings in the pub when we made it back to England. Her pre-wedding advice and ideas, her management of a crazy picnic food set up, and her presence on the day making sure everything ran smoothly. Nikki and Hidden Valley were a dream come true.
Extra special mention to Jamie (photographer) and Harry (videographer) who were so kind, amazing, talented, and somehow invisible!”
Photographer / Jamie Dunn Photography and Gabriela Matei
Videographer / Harry’s Wedding Films
Sailcloth Tent / Coastal Tents
Mini Tipi / Canvas & Light
Bell Tents / Beautiful Bells
On the day coordination / Fiesta Fields
Bar / The Three Cockerels
Catering / With Fire
Furniture Hire / Surrey Wedding Company
Cake / Made by maid of honour Hannah
Ceilidh / Licensed To Ceilidh
Flowers / Tracey – Hedgerow & Bloom. Holly – Rushbys
Hair & make up / Jenny Ojo Ma
Bridesmaid dresses / Primark. Nobody’s Child
Bride / Vague Blanche Mariage
Groom / Serrada Couture, Milo Hats
Groomsmen / Zara, The Tie Garden Etsy