Isatu Funna and Philipp von Hammerstein didn't exactly rush into marriage. After twenty years as a couple, Isatu and Philipp—who fell in love while in law school in New Orleans in 1997—said "I do" on May 13, 2017, in front of a crowd that included their 14-year-old twin daughters, Ella and Laura, and 150 guests. "Getting married became more important to me and Philipp as our daughters got older,” Isatu explains. “We wanted them to know that ours is a strong union—and that marriage represents that to the world.”
And since they had a while to think over their wedding design scheme, the couple knew exactly what the epic celebration would look like. The look focused on a "refined and eclectic vibe" that is very much evident in the fabrics at the bride's shop, Dar Leone, in London. The resulting design—a balance between sophisticated and fun, elegant and colorful—was achieved in part thanks to careful planning by Courtney Lunsford of Pineapple Productions, who found the couple’s venue, Cowley Manor, while on vacation in the bucolic Cotswolds. “We wanted to embrace the English countryside setting while still incorporating our own backgrounds as a couple and as individuals,” says Isatu, who opted for a palette of bold colors in both jewel and softer tones. In fact, the couple made the festivities into an action-packed wedding weekend that incorporated their different heritages (the bride is from Sierra Leone; the groom is from Germany) and plenty of gorgeous, original ideas throughout. Keep reading to see Kate Headley's photos from this longtime couple's English countryside celebration, but fair warning: You may be tempted to rethink that all-white wedding after seeing how fun this colorful one looks!
In true Cotswolds fashion, guests were greeted by a rainbow selection of wellies in case things got muddy.
The weekend's welcome boxes were also fitting for the countryside theme, with custom mugs, English Breakfast tea, cookies, and a "Revelry + Remedy" bag filled with sundries for the morning after.
For her bridal gown, Isatu went nontraditional with a silk floral sheath by Erdem, which she purchased in London. “I loved that this dress incorporated so much floral and a nod to the English countryside,” she says. With it she paired Penelope Chilvers shoes, a borrowed pearl pin (for her hair), and a new ring by Dinny Hall. Her bouquet incorporated coral charm peonies, etched salmon peonies, buck eye bell peonies, cafe au last roses, and navy sweet peas.
The couple’s daughter Ella, wearing a lilac lace Self-Portrait dress, served as Isatu’s sole bridesmaid and walked arm-and-arm with her mother down the aisle. Her bouquet was just as beautiful as her mom's, and featured etched salmon peonies, cafe au last roses, and lavender lace spray roses in her bouquet.
Ella’s twin sister, Laura, acted as her father's attendant and sported a custom-made navy suit by Susannah Hall Tailors for the occasion.
A niece served as flower girl, carrying a miniature version of the other bundles of peonies and roses, and wearing a Marie-Chantal dress. “She raced down the aisle,” Isatu remembers.
Since there were more than 40 kids in attendance, the couple arranged special seating for them in a lounge area featuring plenty of comfy rugs and pillows.
The ceremony took place in front of a pond on the property, which was accentuated with altar flowers that were again selected to coordinate with Isatu’s vibrant gown. They included a wide array of cascading roses, peonies, hydrangea, and foliage.
During the ceremony, Ella and Laura read selections from Corinthians and e.e. cummings, as celebrant Pippa Ward officiated a nonreligious ceremony. The couple personalized the program with handwritten vows and a mix of songs from Sierra Leone played on the kora, a 21-stringed instrument common in West Africa, to reflect the bride’s heritage.
The aisle was decorated with potted hydrangea in shades of pinks, blues, and purples, while the ceremony chairs featured a pop of color as well in the form of mint-green velvet seats.
Following the ceremony, the newlyweds posed for portraits around the manor's expansive grounds, which are filled with art installations like this colorful one!
Cocktail hour took place behind the ceremony site on the manor's back terrace. The hill adjoining the terrace was covered in flowers that were hand-planted to look like wildflowers.
Escort cards were displayed on a custom-made upholstered panel decorated with greenery. And because they wanted everyone to meet and speak with friends new and old, the bride and groom split up all couples at different tables.
The same fabric was used to upholster the bar, which was then topped with pink flowers in gray ceramic vessels.
At the tables, guests found their names calligraphed atop menu cards written in German as a nod to Philipp’s heritage. They, like the rest of the paper products designed by Cheree Berry Paper, wove elements from Isatu’s Dar Leone designs with English garden roses and elements from the English countryside. Table numbers were inspired by a geometric pattern from one of her Dar Leone designs, which was also featured in the invitation suite and ceremony program.
The couple wanted the dinner decor to look “bold, lush, lively and eclectic, with rich, saturated colors against an elegant cool gray backdrop,” Istatu explains. They created it with a hanging greenery installation up above, and below, a colorful display of purple taper candles and richly hued florals atop gray linens.
To get around the fact that the serene English countryside location had restrictions about amplified music outdoors, the couple had all their outside music played acoustically by live musicians, and kept the louder tunes inside. They also illuminated the building's exterior after dark to signify that the party was ongoing inside.
The post-dinner party took place inside the manor’s main restaurant, which allowed for amplified music and was ideal for dancing. And for added fun, the couple added large helium balloons with tails of colorful fringe to the high-ceilinged space. “The room’s bright colors, patterned drapery, and exuberant light fixtures were perfect for the fun-loving atmosphere we desired for this part of the celebration,” says Isatu. A memorable moment was when Ella sang “The Book of Love,” backed by the Saloon Star band.
Ella and Laura wanted a naked cake style, and their mom wanted a cascade of flowers from top to bottom, which ended up topping the buttercream-frosted three-tier cake.
At the Sunday farewell brunch following the wedding, guests were given flowers from the weekend’s decor to take home—and some lucky kids even snagged the fringed balloons. Talk about a celebratory ending to a fun-filled weekend!
Venue & Catering: Cowley Manor, Cheltenham, UK
Cake: Cherish Cakes
Planner: Courtney Lunsford of Pineapple Productions
Bride’s Dress: Erdem
Bride’s Shoes: Penelope Chilvers
Groom’s Attire: Anderson & Sheppard
Hair: Charlotte Mensah
Makeup: Neusa Neves
Floral Design & Decor: Absolute Flowers and Home
Rentals: Jones Hire, County Marquees
Custom Tent Lining: Leisure Interiors
Music: Sura Susso, Saloon Star, DJ Christophe Warrack
Invitations & Paper Products: Cheree Berry Paper
Engagement Ring & Wedding Band: De Beers, Tiffany & Co.
Children’s Activities: Sharky & George
Photography: Kate Headley
Videography: Thomas Vau