A Posh Party in the English Countryside

Planned by the bride and groom with the help of their moms, who found their venue!

Updated 01/25/19
Product Disclosure

Photo by Imogen Xiana

After meeting through work in London in August 2015, Lily and Rich Watt got engaged just two days after the bride's birthday on March 24, 2017. While on a getaway in Lyme Regis, Dorset, to celebrate Lily's latest trip around the sun, the couple made their way to the area's notorious Cobb—an old stone pier that doubles as a harbor (also made popular by Jane Austen's Persuasion). Adding to the locale's rich history, Rich pegged this as the proposal spot, dropping down on one knee at the end of the structure. From there, the bride and groom posed for a picture and celebrated with lobster and champagne.

Although Rich and Lily never expressed outright their wedding vision, both amazingly ended up on the exact same wavelength for their June 23, 2018, nuptials. To start? Choosing a sentimental venue in either Cambridge, Suffolk, or Dorset to pay homage to the bride and groom's upbringings and current family locations. Luckily, after an extensive Google search (we're talking 100 pages here!), Rich came across the famed St Giles House in Dorset. "Our mothers went to see it two days after we got engaged and reserved it," says Lilly. "They both said that they knew it was the right place as they turned a corner in the drive." The pair visited for themselves a week later and experienced an equally euphoric first impression. Next came creating the vibe, with the couple striving toward a formal occasion that still "felt familial and reflected our personalities," adds the bride, whose executive assistant profession made planning second nature. "I was in my element and would absolutely love to go back and do it all again," she says.

Keep reading to see this posh party in action, photographed by Imogen Xiana.

Photo by Imogen Xiana

The stunning venue actually doubles as the family home of the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, Nick Ashley Cooper. The current tenant painstakingly restored the abode while still maintaining its character and integrity, making it the prime spot for the wedding. Completed repairs on the property's Riding House also perfectly coincided with Rich and Lily's big day.

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Photo by Imogen Xiana

On the wedding day itself, Lily spent time with her bridesmaids sipping champagne and taking in the estate's beauty before slipping into her dress.

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Photo by Imogen Xiana

When she tried on her strapless, Tara Keeley by Lazaro trumpet wedding dress for the first time, Lily admits it "was one of very few that I felt like me in." "I welled up every time I tried my dress on, and that’s how I knew," she adds. "I could see myself walking down the aisle in it and see Rich’s face at the end." Plus, as an extra nudge in the gown's favor, an iPod in the background of the bridal salon coincidentally played Felix Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" after she emerged from the dressing room.

The bride paired the look with a veil, shoes from Rainbow Club, and a diamond necklace from Rich (from his family jeweler) that he gifted her before the wedding.

Photo by Imogen Xiana

For her bridal bouquet, Lily took to an elegant floral arrangement of garden roses and peonies, assembled with a hand-dyed, ivory silk ribbon.

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Conveniently located at the entrance of the St Giles House driveway, the church perfectly accommodated the couple's 108 guests. As for decorations, the blooms adorning the facade were actually a last-minute installation. "We wanted it to look like the flowers were growing up the stairs and church wall," says Lily.

Photo by Imogen Xiana

In true formal wedding fashion, the guests, groomsmen, ushers, and Rich all donned hats. (Side note: The bride's mother even owns a hat-for-hire company!) For the wedding party toppers, though, Rich scoured eBay, car boot sales (a U.K. version of flea markets), and over 15 antique shops, just to find matching antique top hats for all his guys.

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Lily's father escorted her down the aisle during the traditional ceremony. Inside the ornate space, the bride and groom again kept decor to a minimum, with trailing flowers on the ends of pews to frame the altar and an assortment of foliage-infused candles.

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Photo by Imogen Xiana

"Rich and I both loved the ceremony itself," says Lily, who admittedly wasn't very set on a church wedding in the first place. "Reverend Simpson arranged such a wonderful service, and I adored coming out to the confetti throwing and everyone cheering."

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Photo by Imogen Xiana

The newlyweds never pinpointed an official color scheme, but blue emerged as a prominent hue, especially in the wedding party looks. Rich actually selected the color for the bridesmaids' dresses (given the girls' indecisiveness), then each of Lily's closest gals picked their own corresponding styles from Dessy.

The groom strove for a wedding getup "that would look sharp on the day, but wouldn't look dated in the pictures for years to come." To pull this off, Rich turned to a modern-cut suit from Hackett with an Hermès tie, formal shoes, and, of course, a Victorian top hat. His groomsmen also donned modern-meets-classic morning dress ensembles from Neal and Palmer, which were individually tailored to fit each wedding participant.

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Photo by Imogen Xiana

After the vows, the elegant celebration surged onward to the venue's elaborate library. Keeping the tables simple, Lily and Rich chose glass candlesticks and small urns with overflowing blooms to effortlessly enhance the atmosphere.

When it came to the food, the pair knew exactly what they wanted—steak and chips! Let it be known that wasn't the only cuisine served, though. Friends and family also enjoyed a four-course meal, with diverse menu items like minted courgette crostini, a selection of cured meats, a farmers market mixed-leaf salad, and lemon tart with raspberries, mint, and crème fraiche.

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Looking back on the big day, Lily reminisces on one specific moment fondly: "sitting in the library during the wedding reception and looking at everyone there, knowing they were all there for us."

The bride also offered a few pieces of advice, including never losing sight of the bigger picture. "Don’t forget—it is a marriage and not just a wedding," she says. "It is easy to get caught up in planning and forget what you are there for. Enjoy the run-up and don’t wish it away. The preparation and days before with our families were some of the best."

Venue: St Giles House || Bride's Dresses: Tara Keeley by Lazaro, Alexander McQueen || Bride's Veil: Sassi Holford || Bride's Jewelry: Carat London || Bride's Shoes: Rainbow Club || Hair & Makeup: Victoria Fergusson || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Dessy || Mother of the Bride Dress: Halston Heritage || Mother of the Bride Shoes: Jimmy Choo || Mother of the Bride Hat: Higher Hats || Groom's Attire: Hackett, Eton, Hermès, London Sock Co., Church's || Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: George A Payne & Son || Floral Design: Ruby and the Wolf || Invitations: Mount Street Printers || Calligraphy: Kate Nichols || Guest Book: Mulberry || Music: Kensington Piano Bar || Catering: Bread and Flowers || Cake: Lucy’s Sugar Shack || Accommodations: 10 Castle Street || Videographer: Baxter and Ted || Photographer: Imogen Xiana

Related Stories