Karly and Ty: A relaxed garden wedding with BBQ and butterflies

Karly and Ty’s garden wedding showcased the best of America’s deep south in deepest, darkest Essex

It’s rare that we hear about the wedding day from the groom’s perspective – but when friend of Bouquet Catch, Ty, came to us with his wonderful story of his homemade, vintage, garden wedding to Karly, we were hooked.

Karly and Ty’s love story began in the most modern of ways, via dating website Plenty of Fish, where Karly broke the ice by messaging Ty first. Their first date was a little boozy, ending in a tacky nightclub where her friends were. But Ty sees it differently:

“I was already interested in Karly much more than just another mediocre internet date. We had been talking for weeks and seeing her just confirmed what I had already got to know and like. She looked so beautiful and we had a great night together, along with her friends. We had a group photo with all her friends that night which we were later to recreate at our wedding. I was besotted with her fairly quickly and knew it wouldn’t be long before I wanted to marry her.

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I’d been looking at rings on Pinterest and one in particular stood out. Unfortunately, it was only sold in America. But this was my lucky year, and a few months later I found myself on a work trip to Atlanta in America’s deep south where I sourced Karly’s engagement ring. At the same time I was working extra hard to win a work incentive trip to the Maldives. In January I was awarded the trip, but it wasn’t until Valentine’s Day before I revealed the news to Karly.

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I had no exact plan on how to propose – it’s the Maldives so I could do it on the toilet and it would still be amazing! When we arrived we were amazed to find ourselves in a villa suite with its own private pool. It transpired my boss had swapped his room with mine as a surprise gift to us. That night we had a few too many drinks and I wasted all my best lines about how much I loved her and how great she was while we walked back to our room. The next day neither of us were in good shape, but I had a mission to complete. I dragged her out by the pool with the sun searing our eyes and in the haze I got down on one knee. With the waves crashing behind us and between my ears I asked her if she would marry me. It didn’t come out quite right, but it didn’t matter; the light reflected off the diamonds like a laser in her eyes. We were engaged for two and half years before we got married, and we didn’t start planning the wedding until a year before the date while we focussed on buying a house.

Karly went to a wedding show with her friends to try on some wedding dresses. I told her repeatedly not to buy the first dress she tried on. I then get a text saying that she’d tried on nine dresses but she loves the first dress she tried on and wants it. The lace and the fishtail design wasn’t too understated or over-the-top, and really complemented her figure. Now I couldn’t imagine her in anything else but that dress; she looked perfect.

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We were recommended a local jeweller, Lilly Rose, who converted Karly’s late mother’s engagement ring into a diamond pendant and her wedding band. She bought Jenny Packham satin heels in mint green and a pair of mint green converse as a backup, as she hates heels.

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Her hairdresser was a family friend and a make-up artist was found via a Facebook search. After her first trial didn’t go too well, Karly found a make-up artist that promised a ‘better version of your natural self’. She indeed delivered an elevated natural look on the day.

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We didn’t stick to a strict policy when it came to our theme. It was shabby chic with a touch of vintage. Butterflies also featured heavily as they have a special meaning to Karly. We had them dotted over the venue, on designs, on chalkboards and on our invitations. There was a lot of mint green, but in contrast there were splashes of rogue and noir.

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While these colours could potentially clash, they never came into close proximity with each other. For example, the red vintage car never met with the mint bunting at the venue, and the mint dresses didn’t go near our hand-made red guest books (we made these with mini cards and envelopes so guests could leave messages and seal them up).

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Our decor was largely a family and friends effort. Karly loves a paper cutting artist called Rob Ryan. I’m a designer so I took inspiration from him. I designed a wedding logo, using certain elements such as a buttefly, a dog, our Secret Garden venue and rings. This logo was later used on the wedding website I designed, the invitations, guestbooks and so on. We purchased a papercutting machine and lovingly made all our invitations from scratch. It took weeks and weeks of cutting out each page and then sitting there poking through card to get the detail we wanted. We were really pleased with the outcome but we never wanted to see another invite again after the amount of work we had put in! That said, we ended up getting the machine out again to make our thank you cards.

We made our own order of service, a finger printing guest book, ring cushions, bunting, and confetti cones. The confetti was tiny pastel butterflies which made for an incredible photo with butterflies flying around in the confetti shot.

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We made favour bags comprising a fan, sweets, mints, a handmade joke and meme, and a scratchcard with a 2p attached. We didn’t leave much to chance: we even had bridal umbrellas in case it rained in the middle of July!

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Zara Lee Flowers decorated our venue, The Secret Garden Tea Rooms, and supplied bouquets. Everything else we made ourselves.

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We booked our wedding date in memory of Karly’s mum who passed away when she was younger. The date was her birthday and the venue was next to the cemetery where we went between the ceremony and the reception. It was nice to include everyone – especially those who couldn’t be with us.

Karly got ready in a local hotel with her bridal party. She tells me that she was very calm that morning, but that the nerves set in just as she was about to walk into the church and she became emotional. We chose our local parish church, St. Mary with St. Leonard, to host our ceremony. We had the full traditional English wedding, complete with choir and bell ringers. It felt really special having it at our local church; we didn’t want a quick civil ceremony and we’re really glad we had the time to reflect in the church, to fully soak in the moment.

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My most memorable moment was hearing my wife say her vows. In those moments I heard her voice how I first heard it the day I met her. I hadn’t realised over the years how I’d become so familiar with her voice and that it had changed somehow. The vows rekindled the thrill of our early love that had now grown roots and developed into something much deeper.

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During our ceremony, we were very fortunate to have a series of cameo appearances from our favourite people and pets! Our marvelous mutt, Henry Printer the First, was brought to the church for a photo opportunity. We bought him a suit to wear, which made him look like a cross between Terry Pratchett and a Rabbi.

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My old boss came all the way from America to play a few of our favourite songs on his guitar. Karly’s friend, Lucy Hayden, was our wedding singer. She got a standing ovation after performing during the signing of the register. She made the moment seem like a Disney fairy tale as she sung One Hand One Heart from Westside Story.

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Karly had visited the Secret Garden Tea Rooms several times and loved the shabby chic feel and beautiful garden area. It’s intimate, cosy and welcoming – and better still, bespoke. Together with the venue, we developed a culinary plan in the months leading up to our garden wedding. We skipped the set tables and went for a more laid-back atmosphere. This wasn’t a traditional canapé and grilled chicken main kind of gig – apart from maybe the Pimm’s and champagne on arrival to the reception. Instead, we had Tex-Mex nacho canapés, deep south BBQ, ice cream from the parlour next door, and cheese on toast at the end of the night. We had lots of wine and ordered two kegs of beer for all our guests to enjoy.

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We hired vintage games for the marquee in the garden. It was supposed to be the kids’ area but the adults enjoyed it just as much! The games included hook-a-duck, tin can alley, hoops and so on. We set out activity packs and crayons for all the children, but they didn’t touch any of the clipboards we made as they were too busy having fun with all these games.

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My mum made an epic three-tiered naked sponge cake adorned with fruits and flowers, and my sister-in-law made butterfly wedding cupcakes. We made our own candy bar instead of hiring one.

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Lucy sang two sets of songs that we had chosen. Our first dance was Turning Pages by Sleeping At Last from Twilight, which Karly especially loved. Lucy’s partner DJ’d for the rest of the night. Karly and her family danced to Irish music as the night progressed and the dance floor was buzzing with laughter and fun.

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The patry finished at midnight, but we’d hired a bar in the town with bottles to keep the party going. I was somewhat surprised when, at 2.30am, a big group of us decided to continue the night in a basement nightclub with Karly still wearing her wedding dress (which she ruined in there!). We got in for free and got given a bottle of champagne. I don’t think the clubbers knew if it was a joke or the real deal. At first, I thought we had plausible deniability it ever happened, but the next day a Facebook video confirmed we’d definitely stayed out too late. We really didn’t want the day to end – it goes by so fast and we weren’t ready to finish the partying with friends and family.

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One night after the wedding we packed and set off for our three-week honeymoon in Costa Rica. We really hadn’t had time for the wedding day to sink in, and before we knew it we had upgraded and were sipping champagne at 35,000 feet. Our honeymoon was an epic voyage through breathtaking Central American terra firma. It was like no other place we’d ever visited. From luxury spas to hiking through the rainy jungle at night, we experienced total relaxation one minute, and intense thrills the next. We ticked off a lot of extreme activities like white water rafting and zip wiring high up in the sky above the jungle. We’re not ones for sitting still on a beach, so we made the most of Costa Rica, travelling to five different areas, from volcanoes to turtle beaches. On the way back from Costa Rica, we stopped in Atlanta to see my old boss who had just been at our wedding. It was a great end to our trip.

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When we started wedding planning we really didn’t have budget for everything we wanted. We thought we could film the wedding ourselves as I had for Karly’s sister. Between our friends we’d hoped for some good snaps. We were lucky to have two talented photographers help us on the day – Tony Smith and Joseph Fung. They have visited our venues ahead of schedule and paid due diligence. But ultimately, a seasoned professional photographer with all the right equipment might have taken our photos to the next level. The filming went out the window on the day (it was just too much to manage), so again, a videographer would have been a great addition.

My advice to other couples would be to start wedding planning early and to put everything on a computer where you can share it and pick it up anywhere. We had a Trello board to project manage our wedding.”

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