Photography by Rafe Abrook
Our breathtakingly romantic Historic Fort space, set on the Cornish clifftops, was the scene for the beautiful spring time wedding of Julie and Matthew. Packed with stunning DIY details, including the incredible cake and the gorgeous florals, this awesome couple are truly inspirational. Their day was a true family affair, with everyone lending a hand to create Julie and Matthew’s dream wedding.
Words By Julie, the Bride
We flew to Rome for a long weekend break in February 2014 – a year after we first started dating. Matt proposed at the beautiful Trevi fountain where legend says a single coin thrown in to the water is meant to ensure you will one day return to Rome, two coins is for love and three coins for marriage. As I turned around from discreetly throwing in a third coin Matt was on one knee with a ring in his hands!
We were searching for a venue that allowed us more time than just one day for our wedding celebrations. It was also very important to us to be able to customise our day so it would truly reflect us as a couple and be completely unique. So many of our friends and family told us how fast the day goes and we wanted the magic to last as long as possible.
Matt was the one who discovered Polhawn Fort online and I was so intrigued when I saw the pictures. We visited it three weeks later and we fell in love with it immediately. Perched on the Cornish coast just south west of Plymouth it is just beautiful with cliff-top views of the sea below, large sweeping lawns and a secluded beach which is exclusive to the Wedding party. And a drawbridge!
We decided to book the venue from Monday – Friday and chose to have our wedding on the Wednesday and a welcome back brunch on the Thursday. The fort has 8 large bedrooms and I got ready in one of these on the morning, along with my 4 bridesmaids and our flower girl. We had gorgeous sunshine and the large windows allowed our photographer to get some lovely shots in natural sunlight. We had our ceremony in the Grand Napoleonic Hall, pictures in the grounds outside and the reception in one of the large bedrooms off the main hall as it started to rain lightly during the champagne reception.
Clothing, Hair and Make Up
I wore a Stella York dress in Ivory which had a lovely long sheer train with lace edging. I also had it customised to add extra lace to the sweetheart neckline so the cut wasn’t as severe and added some lace off the shoulder detachable straps for a romantic look. Plus I went for a very long veil – for dramatic effect and also for fun.
My hair was done by Adele Hack from Wedding Hair Plymouth. She did a brilliant job on my hair and makeup as well as for 3 of my bridesmaids and our flower girl. We overran slightly so I was 30 mins late to the ceremony next door, but I didnt find out until the next day because everyone was focused on making sure I was relaxed. I bought my jewellery from Esty and Debenhams along with earrings and shawls for my bridesmaids.
My amazing mum did all the beautiful flowers! She made bouquets for me, 4 bridesmaids and a flower girl, 6 buttonholes for the groom groomsmen and my Dad, 7 table decorations, and created many more amazing arrangements for our signs, registrar table, drawbridge and ceremony! Phew! She was truly fantastic and my twin sister Mel was her second who helped her every step of the way. Mum really knows her flowers and can even name every single one by its latin name, so she helped us come up with designs that were functional in the space, beautiful and still kept to our colour theme. We were so lucky to have her.
The Venue Styling
We wanted to add an artistic touch to our day because both of us work in the Art department for a specialist packaging design company, literally right across from one another. We settled on a ‘watercolour’ theme which was expressed through a pastel colour palette with special attention to pinks and greens. We also brought in some gold elements to make the look more modern and less whimsical.
We achieved the feel we were after in various ways; one of the most impressive was my mum hand dying 100 napkins in various shades of green and pink with an ombre effect fading from top to bottom (thanks so much mum!). We also created welcome signs with water colour backgrounds, aged wooden baskets from IKEA, had wooden barrels dressed with green ruskus foliage, included gold tea lights, large coffee jars filled with sand, candles and pink peonies. We added a sequin backdrop for our photobooth and sequin table runner for the head table and dessert bar. One of our favorite pieces was our min tin favours which we designed to reflect our theme and even personalised them with our names and date.
Our table plan was an old suitcase which Matt stripped and reconstructed with sealant and some lovely vintage wall paper we found. We filled this with sand so it doubled up as a confetti holder in the morning. In the afternoon a shelf was added which held white chocolate heart shaped lollipops wrapped in gold foil. The guests would find their name attached to a lollipop and they had to unwrap it to find their seat number – which we painted by hand onto the chocolate.
The Food and Drink
We chose a company called The Shellfish Pig for our sit down Wedding Breakfast who are a lovely young couple with a passion for selling the tastiest locally and ethically sourced from their van in Cornwall. We had things like Spicy Fish Tacos with guacamole and nacho chips, Slow Cooked Smoked Primrose Herd pork shoulder, pulled, in a Brioche roll with cheese and crackling, some deliciously crispy jerk chicken with homemade coleslaw and my absolute favourite: Braised, Smoked Beetroot & Spicy Black Bean Burger in a Brioche Roll with caramelised pineapple,onion confit, smashed avocado, cheese and yellow mustard. It was outstanding! They also created mini hot dogs and halloumi sliders for the evening if anyone was still hungry.
My wonderful family made all our canapes for the champagne reception and we had rave reviews from our guests. My dad especially pulled out all the stops to make cheese and tomato pinwheels, feta and spinach rolls and sausage and cranberry rolls, plus some gorgeous passion fruit icecream. My brother, James, cured two whole sides of salmon as a gift and all was completely devoured! Mel, my twin, took over everything I found too much and helped make cornish cream tea plus brie and mango parcels. It was a lot of work but they pulled it off like magic!
I also love dessert. A little too much. So we had to have lindt chocolate towers, the most amazing brownies made by my sister in law Jen, french fancies, chocolate chip shortbread cookies, malteasers and a huge cheese tower with chutney and crackers from M&S.
We hired two bar staff from Kegs with Legs who served 9 of our favorite cocktails for our evening party including drinks like mango martinis, whiskey sours, elder-flower Collins and white Russians – this meant all the guests found something they loved and as cocktails are something Matt and I have always enjoyed together we though it was a unique and fun way to get the party started.
The cake was a joint effort. I bought all the ingredients and learned how to make a lovely butter velvet cake which we matched with white chocolate and raspberry – my favorite combination! My twin Mel took a month off work to help me during the run up to the wedding and we made 3 tiers of cake which the biggest cake I’ve ever attempted! 12 inch, 10 inch and 8 inch with 4 layers of cake and 3 layers of filling. It was a monster! The night before the wedding my brother and sisters, hubby to be and me all stayed up to decorate it. I am so grateful for all that help; I couldn’t have done it without them. On the whole, aside from a hairy moment when we cut the cake and the whole thing wobbled precariously(!), it went really well. We sent guests off with huge slabs of cake and some came back the next day asking for more!
My wonderful twin sister Mel convinced us to hire the legendary Sebastian from Offbeat Entertainment as our DJ and we are so glad we took her advice as we had a brilliant dance at the end of the night. He played all the songs we loved and more. Mel even paid for the cost, splitting it with my brother James which was an incredible treat!
We were lucky enough to have had two of the finest Wedding photographers; Rafe Abrook and Jo Quint. They were effortless to deal with, polite, kind, subtle and patient, and the photos of our day just blew us away. They have such talent and made us feel so comfortable – just like old friends. We unreservedly recommend them!
We created our own photobooth as we found the market to be lacking and overpriced. Matt was the genius behind the technical side because he rigged up an Ipad with a stand, light and printer and downloaded an app to set up our own version which took three pictures and printed them out immediately passport photo style. Thee print out could be torn in half so there was one set of pics for our book and one set for the guest to keep. Worked like a charm!
There were so many special moments it is hard to pick one. For me it was seeing my father for the first time for a ‘first look’ and, of course, seeing my Husband waiting for me at the end of the aisle. Walking up the aisle with my Dad and seeing everyone who came to celebrate with us is something I will never forget. Matt had also decorated my dressing room with gifts and balloons and music which took my breath away and he even got me chocolate covered strawberries for breakfast, decorated as bride and groom!
Advice to others planning their wedding
Get help! Take the main parts of the day that are most important to you and focus on those, all the rest give to other willing helpers and don’t fret over them. One the day you will be on cloud nine and won’t notice anything is amiss. Also, for the ladies, get into your dress sooner rather than later, if you can. I had to rush to get into mine (with a corset back no less) because hair and makeup started late and ran over time – completely unforeseen but pivotal to the timeline of the day. Although my make up and especially my hair were absolutely stunning, I would have given it all up for a quiet bubbly-filled moment with my mum; something I didn’t get to have on the morning. I didn’t want to take my dress off at the end of the day anyway because I loved wearing it so much!
Photography – Rafe Abrook
Hair – Wedding Hair Plymouth
Food – The Shellfish Pig