Real Weddings

Essense of Australia for a rustic wedding at Sandhole Oak Barn – Abbie & Matt

16th May 2019 | Alexis Forsyth

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If a barn wedding is your thing then Abbie and Matt’s big day is certain to provide you with all the inspo you could possibly need today!

It was a close call though, as their dream venue – Sandhole Oak Barn – was originally fully booked until a date was unexpectedly released and the couple jumped straight in!

Going for a rustic, laid-back and fuss-free theme, this complemented the venue perfectly – think plenty of cascading foliage, olive trees, floating candles and a subtle white and cream palette and you’ll start to get a picture of how their day shaped up.

Other elements to draw your attention to include Tequila shots for the speeches, a saxophonist with a breezy Ibiza soundtrack and a rocking evening band, ensuring one heck of a party! Let’s hand over to Abbie to tell us more!

With images by Lee Brown Photography


Abbie says: Matt and I met in September 2014 and bought our first house together in December 2016. Matt was doing everything in his power to ensure that we got the keys to our new home before Christmas – at the time I had no idea of his master plan. We got the keys on the 21st and we arranged to meet after work at our new house. When I walked in Matt handed me the new keys and attached was a keyring saying: ‘Will you marry me?’. As it turned out, the solicitors were in on it too and helped ensure we got the house before Christmas so Matt could propose and it was a huge surprise to me, and an extremely happy one!


We got married on 10th August 2018. We started looking for venues as soon as we got engaged as we were aware how quickly things would be booked up.

We knew we wanted to get married at Sandhole Oak Barn however to our disappointment the barn was fully booked for most of 2018. There were two dates in the diary that were ‘oh hold’ for other couples. I received a phone call from Bill at Sandhole the day after our visit – one of the dates had been released! We booked there and then – the best decision ever!

We knew we wanted a barn type wedding, something that was laid back and rustic. Sandhole was the final venue we saw. When we arrived we loved it straight away. We met with Bill who showed us around the main barn, the accommodation and the grounds. It was so well kept and even on a wet, dark January afternoon it still looked incredible. We loved that we could get married and have the reception in the same location. The fact there was accommodation onsite was a really big plus point for us too so that our bridal party could stay with us.


We wanted the theme to match us, and our personalities. We went for a slightly rustic, laid-back feel, nothing too loud or fussy! We chose lots of green foliage using olive trees and leaves, with white and cream flowers and rustic Kraft cards. Our save the dates were small brown wooden heart magnets and our invitations were plain white card with foliage patterns. We also created a wedding website which allowed us to give our guests as much information as possible without having to have too many additional cards printed with the invites.

Whites, creams and green foliage were the only colours we used. I just love fresh greens and white, and I thought this colour scheme matched best with the look and feel of the barn.

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After researching and finding the designer Essense of Australia and dresses I liked, I was lucky enough to find they were stocked in a shop just five minutes away from my house, which was Bethany Hannah Bridal Wear. I finally chose my dress in the April and just couldn’t wait to wear it. It was a slim fitting lace dress with a really pretty back and a really big, long beautiful train. My mum joked about me falling over in it as I am so clumsy, but I just had to have that one! The ladies in Bethany Hannah were really helpful and made me feel very special when I was there.

I wore a necklace Matt had bought me from Swarovski, a bracelet from Tiffany’s that he’d also bought me for my birthday, and I borrowed my sister’s earrings that she wore for her wedding. A couple of months before the wedding, my mother-in-law presented me with Matt’s grandma’s eternity ring that had been left for Matt when she passed away. I was so touched and felt really honoured that it was given to me and the ring was so beautiful. We took it the jeweler to resize it and polish it so I could wear this on the day too.

My shoes were from the Jenny Packham No.1 range, they were perfect – nice and high with a really detailed back. I loved them and managed to keep them on until around 11pm.

I had initially decided not to wear a veil as the back of my dress was so detailed and I didn’t want to hide it, however, in the end I decided to go for it and I’m so pleased that I did! I chose quite a simple veil from Bethany Hannah.


Matt picked a navy tailcoat with grey striped trousers and a light blue waistcoat from Peter Posh Formal Suit Hire in Telford. He had five groomsmen and both our dads all wore the same and they looked amazing! They had simple white roses for buttonholes and matching black shoes.

Matt also got everyone matching Hugo Boss cufflinks that he gave to them on the morning of the wedding.


I had five bridesmaids, my sister Amy, Matt’s sister Steph, my best friends Rachael and Tasha, and my cousin Rhiannon.

I chose a light pink/nude colour for the bridesmaids. They were really lovely long pleated dresses that I found on ASOS. Some of the girls needed a few alterations here and there but they were perfect and suited everyone.

Shortly after I agreed on the final dress, my sister called me to tell me the lovely news that she was pregnant and luckily the dress came in a maternity version which she had already bought – phew!

The girls chose their own shoes as I wanted them to be comfortable on the day. I also decided they could pick their own hairstyles as some of the girls hated having their hair up and I wanted them to look themselves.

I made my own gift boxes as a thank you to give them in the morning. I bought plain white boxes and then ordered rose gold vinyl stickers with their names on. In the boxes I had a photo printed with pictures of us from my hen do and some other bits and pieces. I got them matching silver bracelets with little hearts from a place called Olia Jewellery in Wales, which they all wore on the day. I also got the girls hangers with their names on for their dresses and some pyjamas to wear that morning.


One of my close friends, Carmen of Hair and Make Up by Carmen, did the hair on the day and did an amazing job on all six of us.

My makeup was done by Rebecca Jayne Make Up Studio and Mobile Beauty. I was nervous about getting my makeup done at first as I was keen to look as much like myself as possible, however Rebecca did a fantastic job and I truly loved the look she created.

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We wanted our photographer to capture the day as it happened, so we chose Lee Brown Photography who was amazing. His style of photography fitted in so well with what we wanted, and we couldn’t recommend him enough. We have received our photos back and they are perfect.


We chose Julie at The White Room Floral Design for our flowers – this was a recommendation from Lee our photographer.

My bouquet was made up of white roses, hydrangea, eucalyptus and silver foliage. The bridesmaids all had a smaller version of my bouquet.

I wasn’t sure on flowers at first, however, when I met Julie, I knew straight away she understood my vision and trusted her suggestions. We decorated the outside beam using lots of foliage and a hint of white flowers including roses, hydrangea, eucalyptus and silver foliage.

Our centrepieces were also created by Julie. We had five tables with circlets of eucalyptus foliage with white flowers and three tall cylinder vases with floating candles, and five tables had tall silver candelabras with foliage and flower rings, cascading foliage and candles at the base.

On the top table we had foliage sprays, vases with floating candles and we also used the bridesmaids’ bouquets in vases for further decoration.

We decorated alternate beams with fairy lights and more green foliage cascading from the corners of the beams.

We couldn’t have been happier when we saw the room for the first time – it was exactly what I had pictured. We had lots of lovely comments from our guests about how classy and elegant the room looked which was nice to hear and a testament to how hard Julie and the top table team worked.

We also bought some olive trees to match in with our theme and placed them either side of the aisle. We now have them in pots at home – a nice reminder of our wedding day for years to come!

Our favours were Welsh cakes; a little nod to both myself, my family and Matt’s mum all being Welsh. My sister Amy arranged this for me, from a place in Cardiff called Cardiff Bakestones. Amy and my brother-in-law Rhys got to sample the different flavours for us. We had three different flavoured Welsh cakes in heart shapes which my sister, Rhys, mum and dad put in bags, tied with twine and labelled for us the night before the wedding. Matt’s mum made the labels for us using Kraft card and a little picture of a dragon.


We decided to have a cheese cake for our wedding instead of the traditional style cake. We got this from Costco and then supplied the decorations ourselves, including a large hand carved ‘display log’ which Matt’s mum got for us – our caterers did a fantastic job decorating it for us. We served the cheese as part of our evening food, alongside some homemade chutney, fruit and crackers.


Our venue offered a corkage option, so we decided to make use of that. Matt’s parents have a house in France and handpicked our wines for us. We also had a pink fizz and beers for our canapés, and champagne for our toast. Matt’s best man Rich also handed out shots of tequila to all our guests at the end of his speech – he said you couldn’t have a night out with Matt and Abbie without a shot of tequila!

We had Top Table as our caterers, who really were the best! We had a tasting session and in the end we settled on baked asparagus tips wrapped in Scottish Oak smoked salmon served on mange tout and sesame seeds with a Béarnaise sauce; chicken breast stuffed with baby spinach and sun-dried tomato mousseline wrapped in Parma ham on parmesan mashed potatoes served with a chive sauce and seasonal crisp vegetables; followed by key lime pie and warm sticky toffee pudding served with toffee sauce and vanilla custard, and brandy basket filled with Eton Mess. These were a combination of our favourite desserts.


We had a saxophonist for our drinks reception. Sophia of Sophia Sax, provided Ibiza chilled music whilst our guests had drinks and canapes and we would certainly recommend her.

We chose a live band for the evening called Dexter. We were really keen to have upbeat, happy music and they didn’t disappoint! They had everyone dancing and played our requested songs which were amazing! We had such good feedback and would 100% recommend them.

Our first dance was Sister Sledge, Thinking of You; it was perfect for us, upbeat and happy. Our dance wasn’t planned or choreographed – we just did what we do on most nights out and swing each other around all over the place!

Matt’s friend Olly has a company, Cheshire Event Production and he arranged for us to have everything for the evening, including the LED light up dance floor and DJ – who was brilliant!

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Special touches

I bought a greenhouse box from Ikea, filled the bottom with artificial flowers then bought a vinyl sticker saying ‘cards’ which I stuck to the front. I was pretty pleased with that!

Matt made our ‘order of the day’ board himself, he reassembled a wooden pallet then printed the words we wanted and drew them onto the wood using a posca pen – he is much more arty and patient than me!

We made our table plan too; we got a large wooden board and then attached photo frames for our number of tables. Steph (my bridesmaid) helped me to decorate it by attaching artificial flowers and ivy using a glue gun.

Matt’s mum printed our name place cards which were Kraft card with a green olive leaf on. We tied them to sprigs of rosemary using twine. The table numbers and menus were also printed using the same leaf motifs and the menu was created in a booklet form to include information about the wines for the meal and a photo of us on the back. Matt’s mum also printed our ‘reserved’ seat labels for the ceremony – she really did do a fantastic job and we were so grateful for all the help!

I got our biodegradable confetti from Adam Apple. I bought small glassine bags from eBay and had stickers made by a company on Amazon with our names and wedding date on. I then spent a few afternoons filling the bags – and making a bit of a mess!

I asked my granny to do a reading for us. She read ‘I Carry Your Heart’ by E.E.Cummings, a poem I have always loved. She did so well, she was nervous but read beautifully and I was so glad she agreed to do it as it really meant a lot!

Thanks to

From the minute we stepped foot at the venue we felt so welcome and knew it was the right place. Top Table, who are the designated caterers and wedding planner, really look after you.

Best bit

I couldn’t pick a favourite part as it was all truly amazing. I got to marry my soul mate in an amazing venue with great wine, food and music and most important of all surrounded by our family and friends. It was the best feeling having all the people we love together in one room for the day. It doesn’t happen in life very often with everyone living far apart so it was really special to have everyone together.


We went to Mexico for our honeymoon. We stayed at the Excellence in Playa Mujeres which was amazing! We arrived and felt really special as soon as we arrived. We had a banner on our door saying ‘newlyweds’ and had little treats come to our room during the trip such as chocolate platters and bottles of wine. We spent the whole ten days eating and drinking and just spending some much-needed relaxation time together after a busy few months.


My top tip for other Brides Up North would be, try not to worry about little things on the day – things can go wrong but at the end of it you will be happy and married!

Enjoy every minute because, everyone says it – but the day just flies by! We wish we could do it all over again, minus the hangover the next day!

Pinterest and bridal groups on Facebook really helped me with DIY ideas too. I have very minimal artistic or creative skills but through the tips I found on various bridal groups, was able to save money by doing a few DIY bits such as the table plan, card box and ‘order of service’ board.

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