Image by Lucas & Co Photography.
Pocketful of Dreams are Luxury Wedding Planners and Stylists in the UK who work with style-conscious souls, to create beautifully authentic celebrations and considered gatherings. They are well known for cultivating stylishly-refined wedding experiences for their international clients and regularly manage full weekend weddings on private estates.
Inspired by the beauty of nature and wide open spaces, their style is organic, elegant and understated. Founded by modern wedding planner Michelle Kelly in 2010, Pocketful of Dreams has since planned and designed an array of beautifully designed weddings and events all across England and Europe.
To say I’m a little excited about featuring a wedding designed by Michelle, at one of my fave venues no less, would be a massive understatement. Wilderness Reserve is a pretty incredible wedding venue in Suffolk, but in the hands of Pocketful Of Dreams it’s all kinds of epic.
Over to Michelle to talk you through the creation of this weekend wedding…
Notes on Weekend Weddings on Private Estates from Michelle Kelly, Pocketful of Dreams
I am constantly seeking out those really special and rare venues and locations for my clients to host their weddings. Places that allow them to create a truly immersive experience for their guests, where they can transport them to somewhere magical and give them a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Usually this experience is one that goes beyond just the wedding day itself, as invited guests are often dotted all around the world and as such have to travel to attend. My couples realise that time is so precious and when you are inviting friends and family to travel from afar, spoiling them with a wedding weekend is the perfect way to express your gratitude.
Think all your nearest and dearest ensconced in luxurious surroundings, a relaxed itinerary of activities with unique drinking and dining experiences so guests are kept happy and entertained for an entire weekend.
As locations go, none are more unique or perfect for a wedding weekend than the Wilderness Reserve in Suffolk. The location of choice for two of our past wedding couples, and soon to be three as we’re currently putting plans in place for a 2018 wedding at the estate also. So today I wanted to share an insight into how we go about planning and designing a wedding that feels cohesive to it’s location, whilst also being personal to the couple. Read on to find out how we supported our bride and groom to transform their laidback luxury wedding at Wilderness Reserve into something truly unforgettable.
The Wedding Venue
Wilderness Reserve offers a private Grade II listed Georgian manor house with a newly-built Orangery events space, alongside a collection of converted farmhouse and country cottage accommodation, set within the 4,500-acre private Sibton Park Estate, just over two hours’ drive from London. Hundreds of acres of rolling parkland, woodland rides, lakes and pleasure grounds welcome you to the estate which is so beautiful, it is like stepping into a fairytale.
There is much to be inspired by across the estate and plenty to consider when designing a wedding at Wilderness Reserve: The Georgian country house with sash windows, original cornicing, an eclectic mix of antique furnishings, Chinoiserie wallpaper and roaring fires is just one aspect to consider; then there is the savvy-modern styling of spaces such as the Walled Garden and Cartshed with an Anthropologie-esque feel; the unique grass-terraced swimming pool and the acres and acres of untouched wilderness sprouting lavender, daisies and purple thistles amongst the wild grasses.
With an Australian groom and a bride from Yorkshire our couple wanted to bring their respective heritages and personalities to their wedding. They were keen for it to feel relaxed and really welcoming for their guests who had travelled so far to be with them.
We dug deep into the heart of their vision to uncover their own authentic story, revealing their ultimate vision for “Smiles, love and happiness” and their core priorities of plenty of great food and drink, incredible music and an epic dance party. They also wanted to ensure their guests felt well taken care of throughout with special little touches that showed how much they were loved. And of course for it all to feel stylishly beautiful, yet never overdone.
Lovers of the laidback coastal vibe of Australia and a couple with modern design sensibilities, they were unsure how to design their weekend so that it all felt cohesive and pulled-together. They were drawn to organic and nature-inspired details but beyond this they struggled to visualise how things could look within the surroundings of Wilderness Reserve, given that each space on the estate had such a distinctive aesthetic, particularly the more traditional Sibton House. The modernly styled aspects of the estate, along with the epic landscape is what really set their hearts on fire, so we drew inspiration from these elements to create their design and plan their wedding weekend.
The Design Concept
To help our couple visualise their day we first set to work on our Laidback Luxe concept. Drawing inspiration from the venue itself, specifically the wild landscape, the soft stone and weathered woods of the buildings, as well as the couple’s own lives and loves.
The relaxed design was infused with organic details, influenced by their love of the coast. Inspired by wild seas and native seascape grassland, we worked with a colour palette of oceanic greys and blues, soft sandy stone, chalky white, delicate mauve and pearl, which was offset by beautiful bronzed and copper details reminiscent of rusted, verdigris elements.
This part of the process is always our starting point when creating a captivating and compelling event experience, one that will become infused with personal touches and considered details that allows the design to flow through every element. We seek to ensure we’re on the right page with our couples first of all and are looking for that emotive gut-reaction from them and those precious words “Yes – this is exactly right for us”.
From there, every element is then carefully considered to create that feeling of cohesiveness and to make their wedding an unforgettable experience for all.
We next look at the overall experience we want to create and work through the guest journey from start to finish. Suggesting special touch-points and details that wow. Here’s what we did based on the design above:
The Invitations & Paper Suite
Giving guests that initial hint at what kind of celebration they could expect, we worked closely with De Winton Paper and our couple to create a stunning paper suite in hand-painted watercolour, to play to the oceanic vibe. Harriet De Winton created a bespoke monogram for them which was used in various ways throughout the entire paper suite, including a gorgeous wax seal in copper with a copper string holding the invitation pieces together. This aesthetic was carried through to their other on-the-day elements, with variations to the design so each piece felt fresh. Her hand-painted signage was the result of a collaborative brainstorm between us during the planning process, I just knew a soft painterly style would look incredible nestled into the wild landscape, so Harriet indulged my ideas and created the most breathtakingly beautiful signage I have ever seen.
Guests arrived to the estate for check-in and were greeted to their rooms with custom gift-boxes filled with an array of considered items: home-made Yorkshire inspired treats made by the Bride’s Mum included Yorkshire Parkin and flapjacks, Chutney’s and Jams; a branded stubby cooler – a favourite item of the Groom’s back in Australia, golf balls for the boys, a map of the estate and an overview of the weekend’s activities. My favourite item was a mini branded candle so everyone could take home the scent of the wedding.
The activities started with a delicious afternoon tea for the ladies and a golfing trip for the men, this was followed by a relaxed evening BBQ under the setting sun in the bucolic yet uber-stylish surroundings of the Walled Garden.
Much of the accommodation at Wilderness Reserve is self-catering, so we ensured guests had all they needed to feast on come the morning of the wedding by stocking fridges with breakfast items and snacks.
But as we all know, the ‘getting ready moment’ is a key part of any party, a moment full of buzz and excitement and one that should be enjoyed with an aperitif in hand. So we enlisted the Fancy Float team to create a pop-up outdoor bar, serving custom cocktails from a vintage milk float. Their skilled bar team delivered drinks to each cottage on traditional bikes, and I swear – the squeals of delight from the ladies getting ready, as their Gin Fizz was delivered – could be heard for miles.
With a deep desire for an outdoor ceremony located by the lake, we helped the couple manage the various logistical challenges around this, including organising a shuttle service in luxurious Range Rovers for those not brave enough to walk through the grazing flocks of sheep. The weather is the one thing outside of our control, so of course we always have a backup plan ready to go, just in case. Luckily we didn’t need it and their dream ceremony went ahead outside as planned.
We kept the ceremony design minimal so the beauty of the space shone through. A simple meadow-garden lined the aisle, with grassy elements, including some native to Australia, that looked like they had sprung up from the ground. We chose simple wooden furniture so it blended into the landscape too, everything was chosen for it’s ability to blend rather than making a design statement. A curtained entrance, dressed in draping foliage, was also created to offer the bride a little privacy when disembarking the wedding car and providing her a moment to compose herself before making her grand entrance.
Dining was held under a stretch-tent canopy outside the venue’s purpose built events space: The Orangery. Given the couple’s love of nature and the outdoors, they really wanted to dine outside but had little faith in our Great British weather. So the stretch canopy offered the perfect solution, allowing us to keep the sides open to maximise those incredible landscape views and facilitate that inside-outside feeling.
They dined beneath a canopy of festoon lighting and light and loose vine garlands for an airy feel. The oceanic elements were weaved and layered into the design too with whitewashed furniture, muted and organic florals in dusty shades were displayed aged iron vessels, battered copper votives and hand-painted watercolour menu’s with a deckled edge added a beautiful flourish. We chose textured linens in a putty shade to blend into the backdrop of the Orangery building, creating a serene and calming aesthetic.
The place cards continued with the watercolour design and featured De Winton’s beautiful handwriting, attached to linen napkins using thin leather ties, another subtle and simple design touch but one that was such a hit with guests that many ended up proudly wearing them for the rest of the evening.
Keen to surprise their guests at every stage of the day we kept the dancefloor hidden until dining had ended and speeches had been delivered. There were many delighted faces as the best man invited guests into the Orangery for the first dance, where the legendary Salut band were positioned on stage ready to kick things off. They delivered an electric performance that had guests dancing all night long, fuelled by espresso martini’s from our resident mixologists of course.
The Orangery at Wilderness is a fabulous neutral space, painted in Farrow and Ball Elephant’s breath and featuring a vine-inspired chandelier. We kept the space clean and minimal with meadow-style arrangements lining the stage and a showpiece floral arrangement behind the bar, with the focus on dancing and merriment.
As the live music segment came to a close, another surprise awaited our party-hard crowd. The bride and groom lead the eager revellers down a candlelit pathway into the house cellar – a soundproof space that allows partying until dawn – where That Event DJ was already spinning his tunes and midnight munchies awaited.
The Recovery Brunch
Early next morning we quickly (and quietly!) transformed the Orangery space ready to host the recovery brunch. Offering a different feel to the setting of the day before, we flipped things around, moving the dining inside the Orangery. Guests enjoyed a long-table dining feast for brunch, including Bloody Mary’s to ease the hangover.
The day continued with a picnic lunch, originally intended to be held outside by the pool under the blazing July sun. The weather gods however, had other ideas and just as lunch was about to begin the heavens opened. So our team quickly sprung into action transforming the stretch tent space into a boho chill-out lounge, complete with huge beanbags and laidback tunes. It was the perfect-imperfect moment and guests had a great time reminiscing about all the party antics the night before, flitting in and out between showers.
The weekend ended with chats round the fire, fuelled by freshly-made pizza cleverly served from the back of a converted landrover, and of course lashings of Provence Rose from the Fancy Float.
The perfect end to the perfect wedding weekend.
Photography Lucas and Co Photo
Planning & Styling Pocketful of Dreams
Brunch images courtesy of Pocketful of Dreams
Hopefully that’s given you plenty of food for thought when it comes to designing your own stylish wedding experience. Michelle is really the go-to expert on weekend weddings on private estates so if you feel you may need expert support and guidance, to help you navigate the planning process and the complex layers of design and logistics then take a look at Michelle’s wedding planning services.