Downton Inspired Garden Party Wedding at Nurstead Court

Step back in time to a time of glamour, relaxed pace of life and graceful elegance. I love Downton Abbey and everything it symbolises! The old world way of doing things, the unhurried pace of life and above all the family saga that sat right at the heart of the classic drama reminds us so much of what happens in our modern day families. I think that’s what has endeared the show to millions around the world, myself included.

It is from this much loved drama that I took my inspiration from to design this garden party wedding editorial. The Grantham clan always celebrated in style so I went about carefully selecting the wedding suppliers and key pieces for the shoot to get the feel of and reflect some of the style that the show is known for whilst still keeping it modern.

For the venue, I choose Nurstead Court, the 18h century Manor House with gorgeous manicured grounds that is so reminiscent of the grounds at Highclere castle (where Downton was shot). The Manor also has a lot of rich history which I will go into on another post but suffice to say that it provided the perfect backdrop for our garden wedding shoot.

For the wedding dresses, I contacted Kate Edmondson Couture for her beautiful designs. Kate designs beautiful understated elegant vintage wedding dresses fit for the modern bride. I wanted dresses that reminded me of both Lady Mary and Lady Edith’s wardrobe and Kate’s were the perfect choice.

The dresses I hand picked had the seamless structure that the Downton dresses had and were so graceful and elegant to move in as with the Crawley sisters. All fitted our bride Chloe so beautifully. One of my favourites was the v neck tiered wedding dress with antique gold pattern that added that downtonesque piazza to the feel of the shoot. It was so graceful, chic and elegant. You don’t tend to see styles like that around these days as most brides tend to prefer full skirt tulle dresses or very modern classic styles but this dress for me was a good fusion of the two.

I wanted the hair and makeup to be simple, understated and still chic and I think our hair and makeup artist Emily did such a fab job! She kept the rosy English glow of our bride with subtle makeup that had a classic effect and gave her different hairstyles to compliment each of our 3 dresses. A mix of flowing tresses and stylish up dos that framed our bride’s face delicately. All styles you could try for your own big day.

Our groom wore a customary tux that is so remiss of the Downton men with hair slicked back with a side part to give him that classic formal look. Kate Feakins Cake Design made the simple two tiered fondant wedding cake. As it was a garden party, she hand-painted garden plants onto the cake and adorned it with handmade pale pink sugar flower to it to complete the look (reminds me a bit of the one Mrs Pattmore made for Lady Mary’s wedding to Matthew Crawley!) The overall result was striking in its simplicity.

As we were surrounded by nature and abundant greenery of the grounds at Nurstead Court, I wanted the tablescape design to be neutral with light and airy colours that didn’t detract from the feel of the day. So, I kept the bulk of the design neutral with hints of pinks and creams mainly in luscious blooms from Bailey and Blossom.

Details were such an important aspect of the Downton story, I think that’s part of what made the show so great. The incredible amount of detail the producers put into the show; from the location, to the outfits (gorgeous gowns for the ladies) accessories, and props to the textures, sights and sounds that made that era come alive for us on screen. I tried to apply that level of attention to detail to this editorial too albeit on a much smaller scale!

So for the tablescape, I kept it simple, elegant and refined and allowed the different pieces to tell their own story. Crystal cut glassware added texture to the table, white damask linens made from the softest cotton fabrics brought refined elegance to our tables, vintage gold rimmed dinner plates made from the finest China from Vintage Flair, hand piped ornate biscuits that are great favours for your guests, menu cards in hand written modern calligraphy and soft pastel pink taper candles in glass cut candleholders completed the look for our elegant tablescape. 

We set up a mini picnic for two in a corner of the vast Nurstead grounds so the love birds can escape away from the prying eyes of the family and their guests for some alone time during the wedding day. I think it’s important to build in these special alone times with your beloved into your wedding day as the day goes so quickly. They all form part of the memories you will remember long after your wedding day is over. Discuss with your wedding planner on where to build these into your day.

We also had a brandy and cheese station inside the library at Nurstead to show how guests can retire to the library after the wedding breakfast or at the end of the day as they so often do in Downton’s day. I kept the setup a bit dark and masculine (as it is traditionally for the men but women can join in too!) but softened it a bit with the gorgeous blooms from Bailey and Blossom. You can set one up too for your guests so they can indulge in the cheese station in between dances, that will add the downton feel to your day!

Hannah from Hannah Larkin photography did such a brilliant job of capturing the gorgeous images. She captured every detail that allowed the story of our garden party wedding reception to be told so well. Thanks Hannah!

I hope this has inspired you to create your own downton abbey style wedding here in the UK and if you need my help to do it, then get in touch.

Happy planning!

Cynthia x

PS: This editorial was featured on the English Wedding blog, (click through to see the list of wedding suppliers that worked on it)

Images by Hannah Larkin Photography

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