When it comes to a non-religious ceremony, there are many details that you can include to make your big day a momentous occasion as the Smythes perfectly demonstrated at Nutfield Priory Hotel & Spa.
With more Gen X-ers choosing to leave the religions of their childhood behind – if indeed they had one to begin with – we are seeing an increase in non-religious weddings. If you are one of those people that never envisioned yourself walking down a pew-lined aisle of a church what are the alternatives? Fortunately, planning a non-religious wedding is not a daunting task – all you need to worry about is an officiant, who solemnizes the marriage ceremony and can be anyone from a priest to a family friend as long as they are ordained, and a venue, the options for which are endless.
Ultimately, a non-religious ceremony allows you the freedom to tailor your special day to your liking and personality. That is exactly what children of the eighties Niki and Tom Smythe did who tied the knot on 2 June. “We chose Nutfield Priory to get married as we are not religious so getting married in a church was not for us.
“We both liked the idea of getting married in a lovely country house and after looking at various venues in both Sussex and Surrey; we finally found Nutfield Priory and fell in love. The location was perfect – close to where we live in Horley with easy access to the M25 and train links to London, and the unique Victorian mansion house with its grounds were just stunning – we also loved how comfortable we both felt there.
“It had everything we wanted all under one roof. We had the ceremony in the Gibson Room, which was just perfect with its ornately carved ceiling, original marble fireplace and beautiful Neo-Gothic windows offering commanding views of the Surrey countryside. The room was also a lovely size for an intimate wedding – it has capacity for 70 guests and we had just under that, which gave it a nice, personal feel,” explained Niki.
The couple then chose to have the wedding breakfast and evening reception in the Fieldon Suite, as it was larger, which meant it could better accommodate the additional 28 guests for the evening, and had its own terrace, private bar and cloakroom. As it was decorated in neutral colours, it meant they could put their own stamp on it, too.
While they did not go for a theme as such, they wanted to achieve a shabby chic feel but look classic at the same time and use just two colours – ivory and lavender grey. To that end, they had stylish limewash chiavari chairs with ivory lace sashes, together with soft, white coloured ceiling drapes and a starlit backdrop behind the top table, while soft purple uplighting added a sophisticated look. Host with Style, one of Hand Picked Hotel’s recommend suppliers took care of the décor, while Willows of Reigate did the flowers – including those adorning the three-tier wedding cake.
When it came to wedding favours, they decided to treat their guests to something they both love: macarons. “Whenever we go to Brighton we always go to Julien Plumart Cafe et Patisserie and buy a box of macarons so we knew that for our wedding day we would have them make our wedding favours. The guests had two each, which were presented in a ribboned box: one was vanilla and ivory in colour and the other summer berries and violet – they were delicious!”
The bridesmaid and flower girl dresses were also in keeping with the colour theme: the former featured long pleated skirts, a V-neck and V-back and floaty, short sleeves, while the latter had ivory-capped lace sleeves with tulle overlay. The men's suits were in a contrasting dark navy blue, with a grey waistcoat, and different coloured ties for the groomsmen and groom.
“My wedding dress was an elegant lace mermaid gown with lace straps a sheer back and made of a light satin tulle fabric. When I arrived at the bridal boutique they gave me tags to put on any dresses I liked the look of and after trying on around six dresses and having no luck, the bridal consultant asked if she could go and pick something that she thought would be perfect for me. She came back with a dress that I had looked at on the hanger but not picked out and after trying it on I fell in love with it. My mum, Diane, cried which she had not done with the other dresses I had tried on and my Auntie and bridesmaids who came with me loved it too, so I knew it was the one,” confessed Niki.
After attending a menu tasting evening at their venue Tom and Niki chose from the summer menu. “The food was superb and all of the guests commented on how good it was, too. In fact, the service was outstanding – all of the staff was so attentive, always making sure that both Tom and I and our guests were happy. Nothing was too much to ask and they went above and beyond to ensure everything went perfectly for us,” explained Niki.
When it came to the evening’s entertainment they used DJ2K – the DJs Danny and Sam were apparently great and they even provided them with a starlit dance floor, disco ball and an illuminated LOVE sign. “We also hired a Magic Mirror from a company called Snappy Cab and all of the guests loved it. They provided funny props and you were able to have your photo taken and then have it printed there and then,” said Niki.
After such a perfect wedding it was hard for the newlyweds to pinpoint their favourite part of the day: “Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, it almost felt like home from home, just on a grander scale, of course,” Tom laughed, before Niki added: “We honestly would not do anything differently if we were to do it again, it was such a perfect day, we could not have asked for more.
“Apart from obviously getting to marry my best friend of 12 years, the best part would have to be the wedding breakfast. It was a time when we could sit down and watch all of our guests enjoying themselves, eating delicious food and just reflecting on how well the day was going.”
- DRESSES: Benjamin Roberts 2623 wedding dress from White Dress and Tiaras (01293 539804 / whitedressesandtiaras.com), TFNC bridesmaid dresses from Asos (asos.com), RJR John Rocha flower girls dresses from Debenhams
- SUITS: Dickies of Crawley (01293 446088 / dickiesofcrawley.com)
- HAIR: Beckie’s Bridal Hair (01342 718053 / beckiesbridalhair.co.uk)
- PHOTOGRAPHER: Kris Karl Wedding Photography (07701 368570 / kriskarlweddings.com)
- FLOWERS: Willows of Reigate (01737 248484 / willowsreigate.co.uk)
- DÉCOR: Host with Style (020 8241 0032 / hostwithstyle.co.uk)
- BAND: DJ2K (0800 783 2928 / dj2k.co.uk)
- CAKE: Jeanette’s Great Cakes for the three-tier wedding cake – first tier Victoria sponge with raspberry jam, second and third tier lemon drizzle with lemon curd, all finished in vanilla buttercream and decorated with flowers (020 8401 2149 / jeanettesgreatcakes.co.uk); fruit cake made by Niki’s aunty Claire and decorated by her dad, Nick
- MAGICIAN: William May-Miller (07886 793041 / mmagic.co.uk)
Tempura Chicken with Sweet Chilli Sauce
Creamed Onion and Brie tart
Rarebit on Soda Bread
Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella En Croute
Smooth Chicken Liver and Madeira Parfait with Fig and Onion Chutney and Toasted Brioche,
Oak Smoked Salmon Roulade with a Baby Watercress and Lime Salad and Toasted Onion Bread, or
Roasted Tomato Soup with Basil and Olive Oil
Roasted Chicken Breast with Colcannon Potatoes, Button Onions, Button Mushrooms and Baby Spinach,
Seared Sea Bass Fillet with Cherry Tomatoes, Black Olives, French Beans and Sauteed Potatoes, or
Whole Roasted Butternut Squash with Confit Cherry Tomatoes, French Beans, Artichoke Hearts and Balsamic Shallots
Caramelised Irish Cream Sticky Toffee Pudding with Clotted Cream Ice Cream, or
Raspberry and White Chocolate Creme Brulee with Shortbread Biscuit
Selection of Sandwiches and Quiches
Fish Goujons with Tartare Sauce
Mediterranean Pasta Bake