A Natural, Tipi Wedding at Duncton Mill Fishery, West Sussex ~ Anna & James

Morning you lovely lot! Today, we’ve got one seriously stunning Sussex wedding to share with you, in the shape of Anna and James’ relaxed and rustic Duncton Mill Fishery ‘do, so go on, grab a cuppa and just lose yourself in the loveliness…

Anna and James (who now live in London) returned to the bride’s old stomping ground for their wedding in July this year, and boy, oh, boy was it a personal affair! This family and friend focused couple centred their big day around their loved ones (even having a man, rather than maid of honour, and seven best men!), and as we’re sure you’ll agree; had a day to remember!

We caught up with beautiful bride Anna to talk returning home to Sussex, ‘superstag’ and hen dos and hear one of the most romantic (we’re talking Hollywood-style!) meeting stories ever!

We met in August 2007 at Goring Gap in Worthing where we were introduced by our good friend Hiro. Hiro and James had grown up together in London. Hiro moved to Worthing with his family and I became good friends with him at high school.

James was due to do a ski season in Aspen, Colorado that coming winter so we were both a bit gutted that we had met at such a time. However, James invited me to Aspen for a holiday the following January. He taught me to ski and I had a wonderful time. I was heartbroken when it came to saying goodbye at the airport. James asked me to stay but I don’t think he thought that I would actually take his invitation seriously. I went home to Worthing, handed in my notice and returned to Aspen one month later. From Aspen we travelled around the USA, Mexico and then South America. We had an amazing adventure.

Once we returned home James got a job as a freight derivative broker and I got a job as a family legal executive in London and we moved in together, 3 years later.

Coming up to Christmas 2012, James suggested I pick my favourite restaurant for dinner on New Year’s Eve. My favourite restaurant just happens to be on a quiet, out of the way vineyard near Lucca in Tuscany.  We went for a walk in the afternoon and James got down on one knee, proposing with an Accessorize ring.  We came home and designed my ring together which took a while, as James became a bit of a sapphire expert and became obsessed with finding ‘the one’.

Stag and hen do’s

James had his ‘superstag’ white water rafting in Idaho, USA, with nine close friends and the dads.  I enjoyed a relaxing week in Dubai with family followed by a day in London with my best friends. My bridesmaids organised a Pedibus as a surprise so we pedalled our way around London accompanied by an awesome soundtrack and a few G&T’s. It was such a giggle.

We chose to get married in Sussex as, I grew up in West Sussex and my family and lots of friends still live there so it is full of happy memories for me. Both of us love the countryside and it wasn’t too far for our London guests to travel so Sussex made sense.

We fell in love with tipis!

We fell in love with the tipis at a friend’s wedding a few years ago before we were engaged. When we discovered Duncton Mill Fishery there was no question about it and it all fell into place.  We took our families to see three very different venues to get their opinions and it was a unanimous vote.

I would say Duncton Mill was our real inspiration and most parts of our wedding were focused on the natural beauty of the setting. Caroline Fleetwood at Duncton Mill was so helpful and the fact that it was a blank canvas really appealed to us. We got really excited about choosing everything ourselves, especially the food and wine.

We did the majority of our research online. Our photographer, Zara and singer, Chris Simmons, were both recommended to us by friends. I went to the National Wedding Show at Earl’s Court, near to where we live, which was a fun day out and good for getting ideas and trying on a number of dresses from lots of different designers in one day. We also looked at Love Sussex Weddings to get ideas for our photographs from other weddings.

Wedding colours…

Our bridesmaids (my best friend Alexa and James’s sister Nicola) wore pale dusty green dresses from Ghost. My two nieces, Yazmin and Milly, wore ivory dresses with green flowers inside the tulle and the groom’s party wore ties in the same green. We wanted everything to be simple and compliment the venue.  We had country meadow style flowers in jam jars on shepherd’s crooks going down the aisle and on the tables and my bouquet, tied with natural raffia, was the same. To keep it simple the bridesmaids carried bouquets of just daisies and the groom’s party had the same for their buttonholes.

A man of honour and seven best men

I had my best friend, Adam, as my ‘Man’ of Honour. James could not choose between his seven best friends so he had seven best men. Also our dads, a great family friend (Jason) and James’s great uncle were dressed in the same outfits as the best men. James’s brother in law to be, David, did us the honour of blessing us.  We chose our own vows and James wrote the script for the ceremony.

My top tips for other Sussex brides-to-be are…

Practice wearing your dress and any accessories as much as you can so that you are confident in what you are wearing on the big day and don’t get any nasty surprises. If you are not having a videographer, make sure you put someone in charge of filming those important moments such as the speeches and first dance.

Personal touches

Personal touches were really important to us as our day was all about our family and friends and sharing our love with them. For us the wedding wasn’t just about us it was about them too.

We wanted to let them know how special each and every one of them are to us so we put a lot of thought into every detail and how it reflected the relationships we have with them and incorporated this as much as possible. Among other little touches, we bought handmade bride and groom robin cake toppers from Etsy  as we knew that these would be special to both of our mothers and they reminded me of my dad who travels all over the world bird watching.

For our invitations, an artist in Sussex allowed us to use a picture he had painted, that looked just like our venue and Ria Hickling created beautiful handmade invitations for us using the picture and tied with string.

We used my late grandfather’s old leather suitcase that had his initials on it, for cards. We lined the inside of the case with black and white photos of me and James. I got this and many other ideas from Pinterest.

We positioned our camera on a tripod pointing at two chairs with a chalk board for our guests to leave us advice. This produced some lovely pictures and the guests looked like they enjoyed doing this.

We had giant Jenga and Connect 4 for the children. There was a basket of fleece throws in case people got cold and a basket of flip flops for when the heels needed to come off.

We made party bags for the children containing wedding word searches and colour in the wedding cake. There was also a blank card in the bags for them to decorate and lots of the children made us cards which was nice. They had bubbles, stickers, bangles etc. in there. I also made hangers for the bridesmaids with their names in wire.

Photo favours

For the favours we trawled through family albums and chose a photo of each guest with me or James (or both where possible) and put it in a small frame. Some of the photos where really old and our guests absolutely loved these. James’s mum made tie up hessian bags for each and every one. The guests name was written on a small luggage tag with a stamp that we had made on the back with A & J and the date in a heart with an arrow through it. We also used this stamp like a seal on the envelopes for our save the dates and invitations so that there was some consistency throughout the stationery.

What we enjoyed most about planning our wedding was…

We wanted the planning to be fun and to include our family and friends as much as possible.  We didn’t want it to just be about the day so that’s why we arranged lots of fun things in the lead up like the ale tasting for the dads. We did a prosecco tasting evening over Christmas with our families. We did a road trip to the place in Italy where James proposed so that we could share our favourite wine with our guests on the day… all in the name of ‘wedding planning’!

Our least favourite part of wedding planning had to be…

Finalising the guest list was not fun at all!

DIY Wedding Tips 

For our save the dates we used luggage tags and we stuck a magnet on the back so that people could stick it on the fridge. James designed a stamp that had all of the details on. I did the stamping.

The bridal party collected, scrubbed and decorated (with hessian, raffia and lace crochet from Hobbycraft) over 300 jam jars in the lead up to the wedding which we filled with flowers and candles. James’s dad did a fantastic job making numerous signs for the day (bar menu, toilet, ceremony, party, lunch, smoking areas).  For table numbers we used wooden spoons.

I made the table plan using a large frame. I covered the inside with hessian and tied string going from side to side. The guests’ names were written on luggage tags which were pegged on with mini pegs.  This sat on an amazing easel made from branches of a tree by James’s dad. We contacted the brewery and decorated the tipis with hops that they sold to us.

If we could do it all again we would…?

If you are starting from scratch like we did, hire a planner just to oversee the actual day so that you can concentrate on being bride and groom and not worry about making sure everything is going smoothly. Poor James had to do too much on the morning of the wedding!

We spent most of our budget on…

The tipis worked out quite expensive because we wanted to make sure there would be enough room inside if it did rain. Although we hunted bargains and tried to find things as reasonable as possible, there were 180 people invited to the day so it all even the little things add up.

Honeymoon hotspot:  We are going on safari to the Okavango Delta in Botswana next year (we wanted time to plan this and have something to look forward to, plus we used up quite a bit of annual leave on those stag and hen do’s!) but in the meantime we had a break at a beautiful place in the mountains in Spain with the most incredible scenery and food.

Team wedding: 

Photography: Zara Price | Venue: Duncton Mill Fishery | Dress: David Tuttera

Jacket:  Pronovias | Shoes: Next | Hair: Samy Hollingsworth

Bridesmaids: Ghost | Flowergirls: BHS | Groom: Suit Supply & Russell and Bromley

Groomsmen: Debenhams | Rings: Abiba | Cake: Hetty’s Cake House

Flowers: Bridal Flowers Direct | Singer: Chris Simmons | Invitations: Ria Hickling

Tipis: Beautiful World Tents | BBQ: Barbeskews Catering | Generator: Sparks Power

Toilets: First Clash Flush

Ah, so lovely, wasn’t it?! It looks like Anna and James had the most perfect, truly personal day! We love the way they added in so many sweet touches for family and friends.

The couple then made it all official, a few days later at Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall, as their dreamy venue is not licenced for weddings – two wedding days, we like!

Thank you so much Anna for chatting to us and sharing your top tips for creating a divine DIY wedding; it certainly looks like you, James and your family and friends were all very busy in the run up to your gorgeous Duncton Mill ‘do! What a beautiful venue too.

Of course, we must say a huge thank you to the newlywed’s photographer Zara Price too for sending us over these divine photos.

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