Old Hollywood Glamour at Huntsham Court

Written by Emma Hla
Images by Nigel John.
DeAndra and Declan really know how to throw a party.

Over a long weekend in October, this stylish duo treated their friends and family to a three-day-extravaganza complete with a wedding eve of ‘micro-speeches’ and delicious dining, a beautiful outdoor ceremony with a nod to tradition, ‘Clayzer’, tennis and lawn games, and yummy wood-fired pizzas.

Where did they host this celebration? Huntsham Court of course.

Notes from the Bride

DeAndra says…

After getting engaged in February 2020, we decided to give ourselves a month to just enjoy being engaged and let it sink in before we started wedding planning. A month later… the first lockdown hit, and we found ourselves with plenty of time to dive in. Huntsham Court was one of the very first venues we found online, but soon it was one of hundreds in an extensive spreadsheet we’d created to figure out which venues fit all the criteria we were looking for. After reaching venue number 400, we realised the hours of researching and recording our findings had been spent in vain: we only wanted Huntsham. It still being lockdown, we set up a video tour and Clair spent an hour virtually walking us through the house – I was so excited I could hardly sit still and we put down our deposit later that day!

Our vision for our wedding was simple: we wanted to spend the whole weekend with our family and friends. For us, one of Huntsham’s biggest initial draws is its capacity to sleep 92 people and seat up to 130 for the ceremony and dining. But it’s much more than that. The owners have put so much care and consideration into every single detail, from the wallpaper in each bedroom to the painted ceiling in the octagonal catering kitchen to the bathtubs (yes, plural) in the bridal suite. If you’re looking for a completely blank slate you can make entirely your own, then Huntsham isn’t for you, but I know I couldn’t have done it any better than Huntsham already had.

We had a ‘wedding eve’ dinner on the Friday night, during which each of the bridesmaids and groomsmen gave a two-minute ‘micro-speech’ that set the tone for the weekend. The wedding itself was on the Saturday, with a ceremony on the top lawn followed by a canapé and drinks reception on the patio, the wedding breakfast and finally the party. On the Sunday, we all convened outside for laser clay pigeon shooting (thank you, Clayzer), lawn games and wood-fired pizza (thank you, Wild Pizza Co., you really helped the hangovers). I know we can’t actually credit Huntsham for this, but we were so, so lucky with the weather – warm, dry and sunny in October in Devon is not exactly guaranteed. Huntsham let us decide on the day whether we’d have our ceremony outdoors or indoors – we were able to have it outdoors, but having the Great Hall as a plan B gave us comfort that everything would be perfect, whatever the weather.

Another huge draw is the no-corkage policy. We wanted to have an open bar for the entire weekend, and their policy allowed us to stock the bar ourselves (thank you, Mike at Majestic Wine in Taunton) while also having Huntsham’s bartenders looking after it all. And it didn’t just stop at the bartenders! We were in such brilliant hands with our wedding coordinator Jennifer, who made everything run seamlessly and was a calming presence every time we saw her throughout the weekend. With Huntsham, you get the help of a dedicated wedding coordinator leading up to the wedding, and you can choose to have them there on the day as well, which I highly recommend. In addition to giving us solid advice in the lead-up and making sure everything ran smoothly throughout the weekend, Jennifer helped hire and organise all the incredible staff, from glass collectors to housekeepers to breakfast cooks.

When you book Huntsham Court, the house becomes yours for the duration of your stay. We loved that we could have a hybrid of self-catering and staffing (like having all our breakfast food delivered from a supermarket but having Huntsham’s staff cook and serve it in the morning), with our main Friday and Saturday meals fully catered by the absolutely wonderful Fossil Foods. We also loved how much it felt like ours for the weekend – since we had an event the night before the wedding, almost everyone was already there the morning of. The feeling of going down to breakfast the day of the wedding and knowing all my friends and family were going to be down there too is truly unmatched. I don’t know when or if I’ll ever have that feeling again.

There’s also no bedtime, so even though the DJ had to stop playing at 1 am to respect noise regulations, we were able to keep the party going on the Sonos well into the early hours. Not having an abrupt end time gave the evening a truly organic feel – kudos to the last stragglers who were with us to the end.

My dress was from Halfpenny London – though actually it wasn’t a dress, it was the Dita corset top and George skirt. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve never felt so beautiful in my life. I’m not sure I ever had a picture in my head of what my wedding dress would look like, but I’m sure I never imagined it would be form-fitting. I only tried the George skirt on a whim, because I thought it looked fun, but I fell in love with it as soon as I put it on. Don’t be afraid to try on styles you’re convinced won’t suit you, because I promise you’ll be surprised. I tried a few different tops which were all lovely but just not quite right, and then I put on the Dita and my face completely changed: it was immediately apparent I’d found the one. What’s so fun about Halfpenny is that you can mix and match pieces from different collections and create your own look. I had three appointments at the atelier in London before purchasing my outfit – and not once did I feel rushed or pressured – followed by three fittings with Halfpenny’s seamstress Laura (who I’m convinced is a wizard) to make sure it was the perfect fit. Their level of care is unmatched.

For my shoes I chose Manolo Blahnik’s Carolyne white satin slingbacks, which feels indulgent (especially since they’re now grass-stained) but if there’s ever an occasion to splurge on shoes, it’s your wedding. Considering I wore them well into the early hours, I’d say they were a sound investment.

The groom wore a custom navy suit from Cad & The Dandy on Savile Row. A few days before the wedding, we went together to look for the ‘right’ tie, panic-bought three… and then decided we loved one he already had hanging in his closet. You could say his outfit-shopping experience was considerably different to mine.

We didn’t feel strongly about having our wedding party wear matching outfits – the most important thing for us was that they felt comfortable and like themselves on the day. So the bridesmaids were given a pretty simple brief (unadorned black dress, midi to ankle length) and the groomsmen an even simpler brief (suit and tie). We think they all looked pretty smashing.

We had rock star caterers, Fossil Foods, made up of husband and wife team Steve (the chef) and Kirsty (who does the coordinating beforehand and on the day). Like with Nigel, I had an immediate feeling that Fossil Foods were right for us when I found their website. There’s such a warmth and passion in what they do, not to mention originality. They have sample menus you can choose from or look at for inspiration, but what they excel in is creating bespoke menus for each of their couples. We worked closely with them to design our menus for Friday night’s wedding eve dinner as well as Saturday’s canapé reception, wedding breakfast and late-night food, and they hosted us for a tasting at their home. We ended up doing sharing boards on the Friday night: a selection of autumnal starters including venison carpaccio and burrata with Devon honey, whole roast duck for the main, and assorted desserts including a burnt lemon tart and gin and elderflower jelly. For our wedding breakfast, we had a plated menu with three options for each course, including sea bass in a caviar beurre blanc sauce and an outrageously good rump of lamb for the main. The lamb should have been illegal, it was that good. It’s worth mentioning that they put such care into making sure the vegan option for each course fit in with the other options rather than feeling like an afterthought, and one of my friends said it was the most considered vegan menu she’d ever been offered at a wedding.

Nigel John is, simply, a genius. We feel so lucky we could have him there to document the weekend. I had a gut feeling that he was the one when I stumbled upon his website, but before we booked him he sent us a full portfolio he had done of another three-day wedding. It was immediately clear that Nigel aims to tell a full story through his work – going through the portfolio, I felt like I’d actually been a guest at that wedding. And not long after Nigel arrived at Huntsham for our Friday night dinner, he started to feel like a guest at ours. He has such a reassuring presence, it was impossible not to feel at ease around him. He also has the most brilliant eye for lines and light; he sees things in a way no one else does, and it’s only when he shows you the final result that you start to understand.

Best part of the day

The whole weekend was filled with perfect moments, and I absolutely loved debriefing with everyone on the Sunday in between games and pizza, but the ceremony itself was the highlight for me. We were legally married at Old Marylebone Town Hall in London earlier in the week, which meant that all the paperwork and official bits were out of the way. We asked one of our closest friends to be our celebrant, which was special for us because we’d met at one of his parties six years earlier, and he’s one of the few people in the world who knew us as individuals before he knew us as a couple. It also meant that we were free to make the ceremony our own, and so we included the Jewish tradition of breaking the glass, left out the bit about if anyone objects to the wedding (no, thank you) and didn’t have to get married under a fixed structure (giving us the flexibility to get married on the top lawn). We wrote our own vows to each other, and I loved hearing what he had written to and about me as much as I loved reading my vows to him. I was worried that I’d cry during his vows (honestly, it doesn’t take much to make me cry) but I was belly-laughing for half of it instead. I’d wholeheartedly suggest writing your own vows – if you’re nervous about reading them in front of your guests, you could always take a moment to read them to each other privately some other time, but it felt really special to be able to share in front of everyone what I love about him and what promises I’m making for our life ahead.

I also loved the hours in the morning that I spent getting ready with my bridesmaids, my mum and my mother-in-law. We had two hair stylists (Gintare and Zivile) and two make-up artists (Amy and Gabija) from Kristina Gasperas Studio in London, who had travelled down the night before, and they seriously know what they’re doing. While we took turns getting our hair and make-up done, my bridesmaids worked on tying name cards to mini bottles of Café Patron XO, which were used as escort cards to help people find their seats at the wedding breakfast. Most of my bridesmaids live abroad, so just having them all in one place, together, at the same time felt surreal.

From one couple to another…

If I have one regret, it’s that we didn’t hire a videographer. We considered it, briefly, but ultimately decided it wasn’t a priority budget-wise and that we weren’t a fan of most cheesy wedding videos we’d seen. When we found out not long before the wedding that the groom’s brother wouldn’t be able to attend due to travel restrictions, we asked a couple of friends to help out on the day by Zooming the ceremony and speeches on one phone and recording them on another. If the groom’s brother had been able to attend, I don’t think we would have asked our friends to record those moments – given how many times I’ve already watched the footage, the thought that we might not have had them makes me break out into a cold sweat. Trust me, you want the videos.

Figure out what’s important to you early on, and don’t be afraid to buck tradition. We knew we cared a lot about the photography, the catering and having an open bar, so we prioritised those in the budget. I had a gorgeous bouquet (Sophie from Earth Gallery somehow knew exactly what I wanted from just a brief conversation; I don’t know how she does it) and we had some flowers on the mantel just in case the ceremony was inside, but because Huntsham is such a fully formed venue, we didn’t feel like we needed a lot of flowers to make it feel festive. Neither of us ever ends up eating the cake when we attend weddings, so we decided to simply not have one. It’s your wedding: you don’t have to have cake if you don’t want one.

This one’s a bit of a cliché but make sure you really take it all in – it goes by so quickly – and make sure you’re not running around so much that you don’t spend time with the person you’re marrying. We decided beforehand that any time one of us winked at the other, we would go outside together and just take a minute to ourselves. Those moments were so special to me, but I also just loved knowing that I could wink at him at any time and I’d get a quiet, private moment to really take in the best weekend of our lives.


Venue Huntsham Court

Photography Nigel John

Bridal Designer Halfpenny London

Shoes Manolo Blahnik

Earrings Mejuri

Wedding Rings Steven Stone

Groom’s Suit Cad & The Dandy

Hair + Makeup Kristina Gasperas Studio

Florist Earth Gallery Flowers

DJ Dukebox Discos

Friday + Saturday Catering Fossil Foods

Sunday Catering Wild Pizza Co. 

Sunday Entertainment Clayzer

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