Close friends, family and the perfect day…

Rachel Pepper 3

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Planning your dream wedding day needn’t be a stressful or overwhelming affair – it’s all about celebrating with the people you love and creating unforgettable memories. Rachel Pepper tells the story of how she and husband Simon tied the knot at Blackstock Farm in Hellingly earlier this month

Tell us how you and your husband met
Simon works with one of my best friends, Sarah, and she happened to invite us both to her ‘pub golf’-themed birthday night out in London. In a nutshell, we managed to catch the last train leaving London that night due to very heavy snow. The train got stuck near Orpington and we ended up sat next to each other for five hours before we finally got back to Tonbridge in the early hours. It took a few months, but by the following July we were a couple. Quite romantic, really!

Talk us through the proposal
It was Valentine’s Day last year and Simon announced that he’d made plans for the afternoon. As lovely as he is, he’s definitely not a planner, so I was a little suspicious. As we drove closer to Ashdown Forest, I realised we were going to Ashdown Park Hotel, as he knows I love it there. We sat by the fire for afternoon tea, and at the end Simon produced the ring box from his jacket pocket. He’d prepared a lovely little speech, and of course I said ‘yes’! The staff brought over Champagne and we sat for a while before driving home and calling family and friends. It was a very special day.

Where did you get married and how did you choose the venue?
We got married at Blackstock Farm in Hellingly. We instantly loved it and both knew we had to get married there. They have two barns – The Granary and The Tudor Barn. You can hire both, but we had a relatively small wedding and therefore just opted for The Tudor Barn, which is the smaller of the two. It has a private courtyard area with beautiful views over the farm and countryside beyond. It was just perfect. I cannot recommend Blackstock enough to anyone looking for a wedding venue.

Rachel Pepper 2
Two of the bridesmaids enjoy the ride

Any key highlights from the big day?
The whole day was so incredible – it’s hard to choose highlights. Getting ready at home with friends and family was really special, and seeing our three nieces in their beautiful dresses. There was a curtain at the end of the aisle, so dad and I stood there, the last to walk down the aisle, and I just remember the curtain opening and seeing everyone’s smiley faces. Also, being waved off by our guests at the end of the evening, with dad driving us in his Morgan.

How did you start your married life together?
We spent a few days at home after the wedding, with some very sad goodbyes to Simon’s brother and sister-in-law, who live in Arizona, and my aunt and her husband, who travelled over from Vancouver. We also spent hours opening our lovely cards, which was even more emotional than the day itself. On the Tuesday, we jetted off on honeymoon to Mexico for ten days, which was fantastic.

In what ways did your suppliers help make the day special?
My dress was from Exquisite You Bridal Boutique in Seaford. The ladies were so helpful throughout, and the seamstress worked wonders!

We used Kim at The Flower House Studio for our flowers. They were absolutely beautiful and it was so exciting when Kim arrived with all the bouquets in the morning.

For photography, we used the lovely Clare Fitzgerald at Fitzgerald Photographic. Clare was brilliant on the day and just felt like another friend at the wedding – but with a posh camera.

We were lucky enough to have a fantastic wedding singer, Kathryn Buck, who sang during the ceremony and throughout the day.

David at Unlimited Promotions took over in the evening and kept everyone dancing.

Our superb venue was Blackstock Farm in Hellingly, who we cannot thank enough for making our day so special.

Suits and ties were from Next, and the Morgans belong to my dad and his friend Russell, who kindly drove dad and I to the venue in the morning.

We used the wonderful Jade Hickman for hair and make-up. Jade was so approachable and made sure we were 100% happy. The morning of the wedding wouldn’t have been the same without her. (Bridal hair and make-up by Jade Hickman)

My mum made over 120 shortbread hearts for the favours and patiently helped me on the sewing machine, making metre upon metre of bunting.

Our gorgeous cake was beautifully made by Simon’s sister Miriam, and my sister and maid of honour Claire put the table plan together.

Describe your partner in five words
Funny, kind, loyal, tidy and stubborn!

Rachel Pepper 3


Rachel offers her five top tips for future brides and grooms

1. Throughout the planning process, try not t o obsess too much about the little details. Stand back occasionally and remember that it’s just one day (although a very special one), and the most important thing is having the people you love there to celebrate the start of your marriage.

2. Take some time out together during the day t o sit quietly or go for a walk. We found it really helped us to take it all in, as it goes so quickly (I can’t stress that enough) and you barely get a chance to speak to each other.

3. Make sure someone in the bridal party is r esponsible for keeping an eye on the time when you’re getting ready. We ended up 15 minutes late because we were all so relaxed and assumed someone else was looking at the clock.

4. Surround yourself with lovely people.  The staff at Blackstock Farm took all the stress out of planning our wedding and were superb on the day itself. The same goes for all our brilliant suppliers – especially our photographer and hair and make-up. They play a really big part in the day, so it’s important that you feel comfortable with them.

5. Enjoy the whole process – from getting  engaged to the wedding day itself – and try not to get too stressed. We went to France to get the wedding wine with my parents, which was a really special day, and those things are all part of the experience. On the day itself, try to relax and enjoy every second!

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