Rustic Barn Wedding at Bartholomew Barn, West Sussex

Written by Emma Hla
Natalie & Ross knew what was important to them – love, family, friends and a bloody good party! So out with the fancy and in with the laid-back vintage – think afternoon tea, games in the garden, the prettiest of lace dresses and a stunning Sussex Barn. Heather from Brighton Photo caught all the action…
Notes from the Bride



When we started to think about our wedding day, we knew we wanted to get out of London and head towards the beautiful South Downs in Sussex. The area is quite special to us, as a child Ross used to cycle along the South Downs with his Dad and we’ve also spent quite a bit of time there on cottage-breaks, camping and running! So it seemed obvious we would be drawn to these beautiful surroundings once again. The Sussex countryside also suited our laid-back, relaxed feel that we so desired for our day – completely different from formal stuffy weddings!

We began searching for a venue with barns and outside space, we’d seen about 6 venues and Bartholomew Barn was one of our last. As soon as we turned the car into that amazing long driveway with views of the South Downs all around and saw the barn, we kind of knew we’d found it. It was the perfect level of “rustic” for us. The owner was so lovely serving us homemade elderflower lemonade, and was amazing the whole way through the planning process. Just as it should be. Bartholomew is licensed for civil ceremonies which was another reason we chose it. We loved the idea of everyone being together in this beautifully intimate space for the whole day, so they could really relax.


With a rustic barn booked, we started to think about our Afternoon Tea theme – we wanted plenty of cupcakes, scones, cream and jam! We also decided against a traditional cake and in the end made a giant Mars Bar Rice Krispie cake! We hired all of the vintage crockery from Helen Ruff at Doily Days.

Weddings can be expensive, but they can also be done on a budget and that’s what we set out to do… With visions of buying a house, we knew we’d regret spending a lot of money on one day so when it came to the dress I set myself a budget of £500. The problem was I love lace which can be quite pricey, so I knew I’d probably have to go second-hand. I trawled eBay and Oxfam’s wedding dress site a couple of times but hadn’t found anything. So after Googling ‘vintage wedding dresses’ I came across Kathryn Handcombe’s website. After a quick phone call to tell her what I had in mind, my sister and I went to her house and she’d already pulled out a number of lace dresses she had. Kathryn runs her wedding dress business from the most beautiful conservatory at the back of her house, it was all so relaxed and quiet. Kathryn’s dresses were so beautiful and unique and I very quickly settled on two favourites. On my second visit a couple of weeks later (this time with mum) I chose one and mum bought it for me there and then! 


With a vintage dress in the bag, we decided to source some other vintage pieces from family, charity shops and market-finds to bring it all together. So the theme ended up being a sort of vintage/rustic garden party! We just wanted the day to be entirely about everything we love, fun and relaxed with great tea, lots of cake, people sitting around chatting or playing games, and a bloody great party in the evening!

Another money-saving tip, albeit controversial, was to do the flowers ourselves! I love flowers, and I feel that all flowers have the ability to instantly decorate and brighten up a room, regardless of their colour, style and cost. The day before the wedding we went to a couple of supermarkets and spent no more than £100 on a variety of flowers (the gypsophila was the only flower we ordered in advance as we knew we wanted it for the buttonholes and bridesmaids bouquets!) The day before we set up the venue, and family and friends helped by trimming back all the stems and arranging them in all the jam jars, tins, random vases and bottles we’d collected. It was a lengthy process but, with help, it can be done.


I’d done a lot of research into photographers when we first got engaged. We knew we wanted something laid-back, unobtrusive and didn’t want to be standing around all day posing for photos when we could be having fun with our friends. When we met Heather from Brighton Photo, she got us straight away, and shared our love of tea, cake and running! So many people commented on how lovely she was and Heather also stayed until quite late in the evening capturing embarrassing dancefloor shots and set up an evening Photo Booth – some of these photos are our favourites!

The planning process can be difficult and can result in disagreements, but always remember it’s about you as a couple, a team. So, whether it be food, music, the venue… whatever means the most, spend the money in those areas and don’t bankrupt yourselves because someone else tells you that you must have a wedding cake or you must have chair covers!



Venue Bartholomew Barn, West Sussex | Photographer Brighton Photo |Brides Dress Kathryn Handcombe | Brides Accessories Flutterby WeddingsGrooms Attire Topman suit, Next shoes, Ted Baker cufflinks & British BracesBridesmaids Ted BakerTransport VW Camper via Doily Days | Stationery DIY by Bride & Groom | Makeup Artist Lucianne Beauty | Décor Vintage Postcards & Luggage Tags eBay | Vintage Crockery Hire Doily Days

I love Natalie’s straight-talking-no-nonsense approach to planning this beautiful-budget-friendly wedding.

Also, how awesome is Bartholomew Barn…? It’s absolutely the perfect setting for their Afternoon Tea themed party. Thank you so much to Natalie & Ross and of course Heather from Brighton Photo.

Lots of love…

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