University sweethearts Claire and Sean met at their entrance interviews for Clare College, Cambridge, aged just 17 and 18, respectively. The veterinary student and physics student kept in touch, meeting up again several months later while back in town for a rowing competition that Claire's brother and Sean's friend were competing in. By the time their first term started, they were a couple.
Claire says: “I had always said I wouldn't want to get engaged as a student.” So Sean, respectful of his brideto- be's wishes, waited until after her finals in 2016, six years after they got together, before proposing. While away on a camping trip with friends in the Lake District, Sean took Claire to one side. She says: “Our friends were just around the corner, wishing we would hurry up with being soppy so we could get on with climbing Helvellyn!” A friend who was in on the plan had brought a bottle of champagne, so they all toasted the couple's future on the top of the mountain.
Sean happened to be staying near to Grittenham Barn for work at the time the couple were looking at wedding venues. Claire says: “He popped in just to have a look and knew he had to show me.” They were instantly attracted to the rural barn setting, as they had their hearts set on a venue with everything under one roof that allowed the pair to select their own caterers and venue styling. Claire explains: “Having it available the day before to set up was a huge plus. But the two donkeys in the stable next to the barn were the biggest selling point!”
The date was set for 30th September, 2018. Here the bride shares more memories of the wedding day…
We had a long running joke about dinosaurs when we first met, which we can no longer remember the origin of! It became a bit of a thing over the years though, so we decided to tie this into our wedding. The tables were named after dinosaur species, and the wooden boxes my dad made for the floral centrepieces were painted with dinosaurs. Favours and place names were miniature dinosaurs with tags attached.
We decided on sunflowers as they were in season and tied in with the colour of our university sports teams. We thought they'd really brighten up an early autumn day and complement the bridesmaids' navy dresses.
Our cake was made by someone who's made birthday and occasion cakes for my family for about 20 years. It was a simple design topped with an adorable handmade bride and groom dinosaur couple.
We decorated the chimney in the centre of the barn with photos of us over the past seven years on one side, and wedding photos of our parents, grandparents and relatives on the other.
The barn didn't need much decoration, so we settled on simple lanterns and festoon lighting
The dress didn't need much accessorising, so I borrowed a simple veil from a bridesmaid and paired it with fantastic blue shoes and earrings to match my engagement ring. These were a present from Sean on the day.
I wore a Sincerity dress. I was looking for a simple style that would fit in well in the barn environment. I knew I wanted a lace-top so that I wouldn't be worrying about losing a strapless dress all day!
The groomsmen wore grey tails with ivory waistcoats with navy swirls.
The groom and his best man, Ashley, had slightly different styles of tail suits, featuring fantastic peacock feather purple and green lining. The jackets even got worn inside out briefly to show this off!
The bridesmaids wore full-length navy dresses with lace tops. I was happy to have them in a range of styles, but they all preferred this one. We did try quite a few dresses for them, and it was a fun process.
The morning flew by, and suddenly it was time to leave. Dad and I had a slightly hair-raising journey on country lanes in his old sports car, so there was no time to be nervous.
We chose a lovely DJ who played a mix of up-to-date and cheesy wedding hits – we have bad taste, and we know it! He got everyone on the dancefloor and was even happy to play some random Gypsy Kings tracks that had been the soundtrack to our university rowing parties.
The whole day was fantastic. We both had a wonderful time with all our friends and family around us. The only downside was that it had to end at midnight, but we stayed in the little cottage on-site, so we could make the most of the party until the end.
One of the most important things to us was the food, and the caterers excelled – still the best lamb I've ever eaten. We also had some delicious canapés, including baked camembert and barbecue lamb, with chocolate brownies for the sweet-toothed.
In the evening, our caterers served excellent beef and halloumi burgers from their street food truck for anyone who still had room. I wanted one but just couldn't manage it! Nothing was too much trouble – although our starter wasn't on their standard menu, they were happy to create it for us.
Grittenham Bar Company
Brides of Southampton
Walkin on Air (Etsy)
Eat the Street
DJ Ashley Riggs
Angel Like Flowers
Joanna Cleeve Photography