Don't do anything you've checked out my Muddy guide to your big day, with more local venues and suppliers than you can shake (or hopefully nod) your tiara at!
Ooh, I do love a good wedding. The frocks, the food, the fascinators, the waking up in the middle of the night worrying you’ve told everyone on the wrong date. Only kidding! You’ve got this. At least you will have once you’ve feasted your eyes on my super-duper guide to your nuptials. Read on, while I go and try on some silly hats and await my invite. You did say I was on the top table, didn’t you? Welcome to my Muddy edit of the best of Devon’s independent wedding businesses.
First off, if all this planning is getting a bit much you can just elope. Elopement weddings are now officially a thing. And think of the benefits. It’s so romantic for a start. You only need to have eyes for each other, or maybe a dozen of your very nearest and dearest, and no fretting over whether Auntie Barbara will get drunk again and fall in the cake. The Brickhouse Vineyard at Mamhead, set in bucolic idyll just 9 miles outside of Exeter, specialise in intimate elopement weddings, incredibly good-value too, starting at £550 for a teeny-tiny bash.
It’s a fabulous venue, overlooking 3000 vines and rolling Devon hills, and I know as it’s where I hosted the 2019 Muddy Devon Awards and everyone commented it was a total wowser of a location. Its restored thatched roundhouse can easily embrace 50, with a bar full of award-winning wine and local tipples in the adjacent barn. And owners Matt and Joanna have curated an incredibly tasteful selection of local suppliers, should you need a bit of help with that planning (and Auntie B).
Sticking with the great big beautiful wedding? Beaconside House near Bideford, is the perfect party and stay for a BIG day, with The Beacon, a brand-new barn-like space for up to 200, and the option to commit outdoors overlooking instagrammable Devon hills under an oak pagoda or a romantic dell in their bluebell wood.
Owners Mark and Ali give you the weekend keys to 25 acres, an eight-bedroom Victorian Manor House and four comfy cottages for your guests, a home-from-home playground for family, friends, kids and the dogs. There are two swimming pools and the option of chilling with the fizz in the hot tubs (yes, that’s plural). And if you’re planning a mid-week do, they’ve got a 20% off offer until September. So be quick!
Dartington Estate does weddings like it does everything: thoughtfully, with the emphasis on natural, local food and sustainability, whether it’s an informal hog roast or a sit-down feast from the kitchens of The White Hart in their Medieval Great Hall.
You can get marry in in your own private Grade II* listed garden with a scented wisteria-covered loggia, or if you’re pondering a New Year’s Eve wedding, the space is still available. Imagine that magnificent hall dressed for Christmas, with festive holly-garlands in the ancient fireplace and twinkling 30ft fir-tree. Let the revelry commence!
For the full fairytale-princess experience you can’t beat a do in a 14th century castle. I’ve been to (and hosted) lots of events at Powderham Castle, in the pretty village Kenton near Exeter and it’s gorgeous – intimate yet grand, with a wood-panelled dining room and a light and airy music room overlooking the cute fallow deer Bambi’ing around the park.
They do open-air too, in a magical woodland garden with a Gothic pavilion or The Belvedere, a recently restored folly with awesome views across the Exe Estuary, where you can dance the night away.
For open air but with added lions, tigers and cheetahs, how about Dartmoor Zoo? The 33-acre setting for the 2011 true-story movie with Matt Damon and Scarlett Johannsson We Bought a Zoo makes an exotic location to tie the knot, where you can make your big entrance to the sound of carnivores roaring, instead of the usual Queen of Sheba. And once you’re Mr & Mrs, there is the largest collection of big cats in the southwest for your guests to gawp at.
ALL THE TRIMMINGS
Do you want to put an ethical ring on it? Kate Pearse at Glasswing is your jeweller. She beach-combs seaglass from the West Country coast – or maybe an ocean-blue or green fragment you’ve found on a romantic walk yourselves -and crafts them into glowing gems, set with ethically sourced diamonds and recycled gold.
Devon’s not short of groovy, instagram-friendly florists – think Muddy-award nominated Sophie Millington in Exeter who learned her craft with the Real Flower Company at Selfridges and The Blue Geranium in Totnes, the go-to for cottage-style sophistication. If time is on your side, master florist Tina of the British Academy of Floral Art at Dunchideock is hosting a new 10-week Flower Garden Workshop starting this September for anyone who wants to grow their own. And Tina knows her stuff, as she’s the in-house florist at the relaxed Georgian manor house Deer Park Country House at Weston, which now solely focuses on weddings and conferences.
I’ve never been one to worry if the cake I’m scoffing channels the venue I’m in but hey, bonkers-about-baking Laura Mead of Angelchops tells me it’s different for weddings. So, if you’re planning a chilled-out boho bash then, you might want to consider a naked cake, with barely-there (or none at all) icing. It ups the jeopardy level as it has to be made the day before so it’s uber-fresh as it’s the icing keeps the sponge nice and moist. I have sampled a number *ahem* of Laura’s cakes and I swear they are the best sponges I have ever tasted, sometimes three flavours in one cake. I’d better stop there because I’m actually dribbling.
Moving swiftly on to the pics now. Meg Hope of Mimosa Photography took the pics for our 2019 Muddy Devon Awards (check them out here), so I can personally recommend her! She’s always madly busy which shows she’s good – see that stunner of the table among the vines Brickhouse Vineyard too. Her reportage style is relaxed and candid, and she’s no slacker – Meg won’t mind trekking up a mountain range to pap you, if that’s your style.
Balloons are big right now. Scroll through your instagram feed and check out #balloonwall or #balloongarland and you’ll see what I mean. Look for #balloonstylist and you’ll find Bumblebee Balloons and North Devon’s installation artist Hannah Jago, who’s a whizz at arranging them en masse to give pizzazz to a dull ceiling or church arch. There’s a massive range of shades, meaning they’re easy-peasy to colour-scheme or even match the bridesmaids. According to Hannah, who creates bespoke installations according to your theme, the coolest trick is to mix them with your flowers for a balloons-in-bloom effect.
How about choosing the dress? Muddy Award-winning Amica Bridal just outside Plymouth are an exclusive South West designer stockist of Ronald Joyce and Richard Designs and have an in-house seamstress to personalise your choice, whether its nude or ivory, A-line or fishtail. And if options paralysis sets in, Amy and her team are there (with a welcoming glass of fizz) to steer you through.
Finally, the most important part of any wedding, YOU and your beautiliciousness, of course. That’s where Lefroy Beauty in Exeter comes in with their Elemis and Espa skin, hair and nail-saving treatments. Becky and her team will up your beauty glow so much that everyone else will literally be outshone, and as the Good Book says, you don’t want to hide your light under a bushel. I’m also really impressed by what I’m hearing about Tan with Fox in Torquay, a hot contender in this year’s Muddy awards. Owner Sarah Fox finds the best shade for your pearly skin using the latest top-notch Sienna spray tans. Her clients love her, and who doesn’t want to be a fox on their wedding day?
Want more, more, more? Check out the weddings section of Muddy’s Little Black Book of best local businesses.