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Ellie and Ben met during their first week at Durham University and became friends immediately. “A few months later friendship grew into more, and the rest is history,” shares Ellie. When back in the UK from their current Dubai residence in 2018, Ben popped the question while on a nostalgic trip back to Durham. “We had planned to go up to Durham for a couple of days as a bit of a nostalgic trip down memory lane,” recalls Ellie. “While we were there, we took a walk to a hill which was really special to us during our university days, overlooking Durham Cathedral, and that’s where Ben popped the question.” It was a complete surprise for an unsuspecting Ellie who was convinced he wasn’t going to propose for at least another few years – which, Ben takes credit for as all part of the plan.
The big date was set, 27th July, 2019 at Ellie’s parents’ home in Steeple Aston.
"My parents' home holds so many special memories for us, and ever since we moved there when I was 10, I have always thought it would be the perfect setting for a wedding," shares Ellie.
For the finer details of the day the couple opted for small bottles of Limoncello reflecting their love of Italy, and also in keeping with a bit of a travel theme, the table plan and names were based on some of the most special places they've travelled to together.
"We wanted to involve our guests as much as possible in our day, so thought it would be a nice idea to try and find photos of us and the guests together as place cards. It was a pain staking process trying to find 145 different photos for each guest, but it was so worth it in the end."
The table centerpieces were an extension of the flowerbeds that surrounded the setting, using different heights which gave a stunning effect on the day.
"For the bouquets Georgina from Floriology completely understood my brief when I said I wanted relaxed flowers that were in keeping with the surroundings.
We had very light pink Sweet Avalanche and Mansfield Park roses, and the rest of the bouquets were pale green eucalyptus, white gypsophila and natural foliage.
My bouquet was tied with a very light pink trailing ribbon to complement the roses," recalls Ellie.
The cake was a delicious lemon and elderflower cake, "I had previously thought this would be perfect for a summer wedding," shares Ellie.
"The decoration was very minimal, with naked buttercream frosting and some flowers from the garden to finish it off."
Wanting to champion local suppliers the couple opted for catering by Croxfords, "After we met Suzan, we never considered anyone else. She was so accommodating, inviting us over to hers for a food tasting, helping us to get to our ideal menu but within our required price point (always a tough job) and taking away all stress on the day."
Ellie's gown was by Justin Alexander a style her sister convinced her to try on, "It was gorgeous," recalls Ellie. "I didn't want anything too big or fussy due to the garden setting, butI did have a few adjustments to make it just right, and it felt perfect on the day. I had a beautifully soft veil to accessorise, along with very minimal jewellery."
Ben had a really tough time deciding what kind of suit he wanted, and nothing in the shops was quite right. "So in the end he decided to have a suit custom-made by Ascots & Chapels, who were great," shares Ellie.
"His suit jacket was quite a bright blue, which looked great in contrast to the groomsmens' suits who wore black morning suits with a cream waistcoat, similar to Ben's. All of the boys (Ben included) wore a tie that Ben had bought for them all as a gift, which gave them something in common."
Ellie's supporting ladies wore a beautiful dusky grey/blue dress which they could choose between two styles – which they all liked and the mix of style looked great in the photos!
"On the day, I was an absolute bag of nerves the whole morning getting ready," recalls Ellie, "It wasn't helped by the fact that it was raining outside and we'd planned a primarily outdoor wedding.
Once I saw Ben standing at the end of the aisle though, the day completely flipped and my cheeks ached by the end of the day from smiling so much. Ben was totally relaxed throughout!"
The ceremony was such a wonderful mix of heartfelt, serious and funny with a humanist celebrant marrying the couple who they felt completely understood them from the first day they spoke. "We also had a pianist/singer called Cat Delphi play as I was walking down the aisle, and then again during the drinks reception straight after the ceremony," adds Ellie.
"While our DJ, Hugh Russell-Parsons (a friend of the family) kept the dancefloor absolutely packed all night and was so brilliant to work with. In addition to this, he helped out in so many other ways – becoming our sound technician, AV provider, and overall go-to guy for the whole weekend."
Also, a special mention goes to the father of-the-bride, Jock, "As we were planning the wedding from Dubai, he was an absolute godsend in taking on essentially a second career as a wedding planner and project manager. Going above and beyond does not even scratch the surface for how much time and energy he dedicated to making our day so special."