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Jess and Sam met at university but didn't become a couple until four years after graduating when Sam gatecrashed a Game of Thrones weekend that Jess had planned with a friend. "We soon had a second date alone and this is where our new relationship began," Jess tells us. "When he braved the cold water in South Wales and Denmark to learn how to surf, I knew it was serious!" The couple became engaged during a trip to Martinique in the Caribbean. "Sam got down on one knee on a quiet section of the beach and asked me to marry him," Jess tells us. "It was such a special moment."
The couple wanted to incorporate this memory, and other personal touches, into their special day. "We chose to get married at Deer's Leap Retreat because we loved that it was an exclusive venue and it offered the backdropand flexibility that we wanted to keep our wedding really personal," Jess tells us. "We also wanted to have an active, outdoor celebration with a relaxed atmosphere in a beautiful setting and Deer's Leap Retreat offered us this laid-back vibe."
"Our artistic sides definitely shone through during the wedding planning," Jess tells us. "We had personalised surfboard key rings as place names and used our beloved campervan as a photo booth. We also entertained our guests with homemade garden games and our menu featured Caribbean dishes." The couple even made their own wedding cake at Deer's Leap Retreat the afternoon before their big day which featured a lime and coconut tier and a cherry bakewell layer which is one of their favourite flavours.
What Jess and Sam didn't know when they booked their wedding was that they would be puppy parents by the time it came around. "As soon as Bodhi entered our lives, we knew it wouldn't be the big family day that we wanted without him there," Jess tells us. "He ended up sharing all of our special moments throughout the day and had a blast!"
"I loved my fitted dress as soon as I saw it," Jess tells us. "I teamed it with my grandmother's ring as my something old, a crystal hair accessory as my something new, my mum's bracelet as my something borrowed and my opal engagement ring as my something blue. Sam looked so handsome in his blue suit, braces and yellow tie, and his bright buttonhole complemented my bold, seasonal blooms."
"Our garden games were a huge hit with our guests, especially the space hoppers!" Jess says. "We had a sweetie station for the children which resulted in some very hyper little ones and some comical photo booth pictures!"
A really good thing about the venue was that the kids could go to bed in the farmhouse with a babysitter while the parents re-joined the party. "Both of us have brothers and sisters with young ones so this was really important to us so that they didn't miss out," Jess says. "The farmhouse was also really useful for older family members who wanted a break from the partying."
"Our celebrations were concluded with a firework display over the lake," Jess tells us. "We had a mix of our favourite songs played that reflected us as a couple during it that including Thunderstruck by AC/DC and Wipeout byThe Surfaris."
One very emotional moment came as a huge surprise for the couple on the day. "During Jess's dad's speech, he gifted us a handmade wooden surfboard that he'd spent months making in his workshop in Australia," Sam explains.
"He had inlaid the wedding invitation artwork that Jess had drawn into the board and arranged for it to be shipped over to the UK in secret. We were both totally blown away by it."
The couple had lots of friends and family who had flown over from Australia to join them on their wedding day. "My 85-year-old grandmother had travelled from Melbourne," Jess tells us, "and it meant the world to us to have everyone there. Big family celebrations are made all the more special by the personal time spent between loved ones which is why sharing the whole venue for two nights and three days created so many incredible memories."