When I met Zoe & Phill in Brighton in Spring last year, they told me about their Summer wedding plans for the following year and how they’d just booked the Orchardleigh Estate in Somerset for their big ‘wedding weekend’. As many of their friends had married locally in and around Brighton, they’d decided on something totally different, somewhere everyone would have to come away for the weekend to enjoy a complete change of scenery, a big party and a bit of a rest! They wanted to give them a different wedding experience. Zoe a full time mum to Wilson & Heston, and Phill both work incredibly hard – their first born Wilson has quadriplegic cerebal palsy and needs assistance 24/7 so their days are always long and I can’t even begin to imagine how tough it gets. (If anyone’s interested, Zoe has started an amazing project called the DRM Project to raise funds for the Chailey Heritage Foundation to fund a state of the art centre for children with complex disabilities. Read more here).
The huge Orchardleigh Estate comprises a big country house, two churches, a walled garden with orangery and cl0ck house annex all set in 500 acres of beautiful English countryside. So when the time was right, we booked in a pre-wedding shoot and headed down to Somerset one fine autumn day, I couldn’t wait to see the place! If you’re interested you can take a look at the photos from our pre-wedding shoot here.
The Wedding Preparations
After a busy spring, June finally arrived and before I knew it, I’m heading down to Somerset again for their wedding weekend. The morning started with me visiting the boys in the clock house where the groom Phill is busy sorting things and people out before he starts to get ready. A few nerves are beginning to show….. Capturing the boys prepping is always a very short part of the day. They always seem to get ready super fast without fuss, keen to head off for a bit of dutch courage before the ceremony! And so I made my way over the main house where Zoe, her sisters, all the kids and her bridesmaids were heading up to the bridal suite to get ready together. Before long, the room was busy with everyone in various states of getting readiness! Wilson’s lovely physio & carer Eva is there with him, getting him into his wedding outfit and Zoe’s sisters are there getting all the other children ready in their outfits. The boys look so cute in their bow ties! Then Zoe gets into her amazing dress and everyone is gasping at how stunning she looks! The last half an hour before every wedding is quite often a mad rush to finish and get out and this one was no exception. The pretty Orchardleigh church on the estate wasn’t more than a 10-minute walk but in heels its a different story so in a convoy of 4 x 4’s and minibuses, the bridal party arrived. Phill and his groomsmen were waiting and guests were nearly all in the church when Zoe arrived. Her big moment is here.
Walking Down The Aisle
A specially adapted walker had been made for Wilson so that he could walk down the aisle with his brother Heston and the other little flower girls and boys, just before Zoe. It was a huge moment, watching him make his entrance followed by Zoe and her proud Dad. Zoe looked like a million dollars in her gorgeous gold tinted gown! She lit up the dark little church. which was full to the brim with people everywhere, and standing room only at the back! I had to run around the outside to get from front to back so I could capture shots from both ends as there was literally no room to move. Look out for the shot of the kids sitting on the edge of the alter. Little cherubs! So on this lovely day, Phill and Zoe finally tied the knot, made their commitments to each other in front of an amazing crowd and walked out as husband and wife. Happy, emotional and proud.
The wedding reception at Orchardleigh House
After the ceremony, there were a few photos at the church and everyone slowly made their way back up to the house where copious amount of fizz and canapés were being served in the gardens outside. The kids were running around in the gardens, some on toy tractors pretending to be farmers others giving grandparents the run around. Happy days indeed. As predicted, the rain came and everyone moved inside… we had pretty much biblical rain that day and it didn’t stop for hours but everyone was happily enjoying the day and it wasn’t long before dinner was announced. We made time for some photos inside the house which was bathed in beautiful light even though it was raining, and the couple then made their big entrance into dinner in the stunning library. The chef’s had been beavering away all morning and as service started the room was buzzing with happy hungry people.
When Zoe’s Dad stood up to give his speech, it didn’t take long for them both to start welling up. He’s incredibly proud and protective of her, knowing how hard the last few years have been, how hard she’s worked. Then there was Phill who equally, had the room laughing and in tears. And finally there was Zoe who made an impromptu speech which started in tears and ended in laugher and rapturous applause. It was clear how much she was loved.
The night ended with a huge party and a live band, so I left the guests dancing the night away as I headed off back to Sussex, late in the night with a happy heart. I’m truly blessed to come across these types of people in my life – lovely people who know the true value of family, love. loyalty and togetherness, people who are always keeping it real, swearing lots …. but doing everything with genuine kindness teamed up with a wicked sense of humour. Zoe wanted the wedding of her dreams to the man of her dreams and my sense is that’s exactly what she got! Zoe and Phill – I wish you a lifetime of happiness, love and laughter together and hope the gods of love , good fortune and possibility always shine down on you xxx
Dress Designer, MoriLee by Madeline Gardner
Flower by Cottage Flowers, Bath
Cake by Enchanted Cupcakes, Worthing
Groom’s tailored suit by Gresham Blake
Bridesmaids dresses from ASOS
Pageboy outfits from H&M and Gap
Flower Girl outfit from Monsoon
Band, Empire from Brighton