A DIY Back Garden Bicycle Wedding

A DIY Back Garden Bicycle Wedding



WWW readers Alice and Roger tied the knot in August, with a Church ceremony followed by a marquee reception in Alice’s parents back garden. Their day was a real DIY affair on a budget of £8000. They home brewed the majority of their wedding drinks, crafted the brooch bouquets and hosted their own disco.

They had a bicycle theme to reflect their love of cycling, with rickshaw wedding transport, a bike cake topper and bicycles used to hold cards and the table plan too. Alice found her pretty wedding dress in Monsoon which she accessorised herself while Roger found his sharp suit in Next.

Thanks so much to Lisa Howard for sharing her images with me via Two Bright Lights.


The Proposal… Although Roger and I have been together for nearly 10 years, his proposal on Christmas Day 2012 still came as a lovely surprise. He proposed in our house after we’d opened our presents, and he did get down on one knee!

The Vision for the Day… When we first started planning our wedding we had a few clear ideas and others that formed over time or were random drunken ideas that came to fruition. We wanted to get married in the summer of 2013 instead of letting things drag on for over a year. We wanted a laid back informal wedding incorporating the things we love in life, and we wanted to give all our guests free booze. In order to achieve the latter we knew we’d be restricted on venues as we couldn’t afford to pay a bar bill so knew we’d be buying the drink from the shops. My sister had her wedding reception in a marquee at my parents’ house some years earlier and after a little sweet talking and promises it wouldn’t be a rowdy affair and that we’d clean everything up afterwards, my mum and dad agreed to host the wedding reception. From the start Rog surprised me with his keenness for a church wedding; he knew it would be what I wanted but I wasn’t going to push the point if he had felt uncomfortable, however it turned out to be a great decision. The support and marriage preparation offered by our vicar and the whole church community was really excellent, and despite my lapsed church attendance since my teenage years I really enjoyed getting involved again and Roger, far from finding the church scary, now hopes that we stay involved and keep attending.

We love cycling and from the off our friends expected a bicycle theme and we didn’t want to disappoint. We discussed how we could incorporate cycling over and above bicycle decorations. If Rog had had his way I’d have whipped off my dress at the end of the ceremony to reveal a white lycra outfit, and we’d hop on a tandem and cycle off into the sunset. As it was I managed to save myself from that fate by finding a work contact who had two cycle rickshaws available to borrow for a small contribution to his charity. On the day we travelled home from the church through the local park in them, Rog and I in one and my bridesmaid Jane, flower girls and my nephew in the other. Two work colleagues were our drivers. It was a brilliant part of the day, everyone was congratulating us as we went through the park, and there were a couple of entertaining moments when we thought the rickshaws might not fit through the gates… they did…just.

Providing free booze to 60 odd people is not a cheap option and was going to take up a fair chunk of our budget. At first we thought we’d just try and provide some wine and Pimms, then ask guests to BYOB. Whilst deliberating over this I made a flippant comment to Rog about him doing a bit of home brewed beer, a hobby he’d had on and off over the years. Little did I know that that one little comment would rapidly morph into Rog brewing 13 different beers and ciders and more wine than chateauneuf du pape. The initial outlay for the home brew kit cost a couple of hundred quid,  and we had to trawl the recycling bins of all our friends for bottles, but once he was set up Rog was able to brew some really great stuff for a fraction of the cost of shop bought stuff; and we got to come up with funny names for them all, and of course there was the essential regular tasting of the brews! It became Roger’s baby, as soon as he got home from work he had to go down to the cellar and check on the brewing. We spent every weekend visiting http://www.lovebrewing.co.uk/  to the point where the staff began to say “not you again” !  I stayed up late putting caps on bottles and corks in wine, wondering if anyone would want to drink any of it.. some of my friends were highly suspicious of it. On the day it was a roaring success, like a mini (not that mini) beer festival. Rog also massively over catered for fear of running out, so we wont have to buy any more alcohol until well into 2014. We did buy shop bought Pimms, and Prosecco and a bit of wine, and some spirits which we forgot to put out in the end!

Instead of canapés after the ceremony we came up with the idea of riding on the back of everyone’s obsession with The Great British Bake Off and ask our guests to bring cakes which we would judge in the style of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. This meant free yummy food for the afternoon, a chance for guests to show off their skills, and a bit of a friendly competition. The week before the wedding I was panicking in case no one brought cake and it was a total flop, but luckily  It worked out better that we could have dreamed of, we were inundated with cakes, we couldn’t possibly try them all and had to make some diplomatic decisions on the winner based on how upset we thought Roger’s nephew would be if he didn’t win…he won!

Entertainment wise mum had vetoed a disco early on following the legendary tale of one of the neighbours calling the police on another neighbour when their party went on 5 minutes longer than the advertised finish time. As my parents were hosting we couldn’t argue so we set about ways of getting around this without leaving our guests unentertained (I’d read loads of forum posts about weddings without discos and was alarmed by the people bemoaning how boring such affairs were and how they went home straight after the meal if there was no disco!).  For the afternoon entertainment we came up with the brainwave of having a ukulele band, and after a bit of asking around we found Levenshulme Uke Up, a Manchester based Ukelele group who happily agreed to get involved and even asked for us to request songs. Particular highlights on the day included a rendition of Baker Street with the sax solo played on kazoo!!

An extra bonus entertainment wise came when I got a phone call in May from Joanne Daley from Facetofacebodyz saying I’d won her services for a couple of hours… I couldn’t even remember entering the completion as I used to enter a lot, and I looked her up to see what she did! Turns out she’s an amazingly talented face painter! I wasn’t sure if she’d get much custom, we only had a handful of kids at the wedding, but she was a big success, my nephew Oliver donned his spiderman onesie as soon as humanly possible once back at granny’s house and was thrilled with the spiderman face Jo gave him, the other kids followed suit with floral designs, and then the adults got in on the act with some lovely floral designs on their arms. Despite threatening to, the best man didn’t get a Kiss style face paint job in the end though.

Later on during the meal, as we love a good pub quiz, our quiz master friend Mal distributed one of his famous pub quizzes, a picture quiz featuring famous people on bicycles. This helped everyone on the tables which didn’t know each other too well or at all to get chatting. We also had a poloroid type camera with our guest book so people could take a photo of themselves and stick it in the guest book with their messages.

In the end we also did have a disco, of sorts, our best man, my brother Tom compiled an epic Spotify play list, we hooked up the laptop to some large speakers loaned by a friend , turned on some disco lights we’d bought the day before from Home Bargains and set up a makeshift dance floor.  as soon as enough home brew had flowed those that were up for it had a dance, while not being loud enough to upset the neighbours, we got away with it until 2.30am when my dad made us turn it off as we were singing along too loudly. No neighbours complained…

The Planning Process… We tried not to let the wedding take over our lives, we had 8 months to plan so we tried to sort out one thing at a time. First choosing a date and booking the church. After that we booked the first marquee company we got a quote for, asked them for a catering recommendation, had a meeting with http://www.amberoutsidecatering.co.uk/  and a tasting , and booked them without trying anyone else.. basically we didn’t want to spend weeks deliberating, if we liked something and the price was good we’d just book it. I kept a book of ideas and lists which we checked periodically.

I got my dress sorted out very early on. I started making brooch bouquets and invitations quite early as I knew they’d be time consuming, but once the ceremony, food and marquee were booked we put the whole thing on the back burner until about April when the home brewing started and we booked a few other things like the ukulele band.  I had my hen do really early in May as my bridesmaid Han swore blind she was going off to live in Australia after her sister’s wedding at the end of May, turns out she didn’t go! But it was a great weekend and worked out much cheaper in May than it would have later in the summer.

We left some stuff until quite late on, we booked our photographer in early August, I had a hair trial a few weeks before and wasn’t happy and decided to do my own hair and make up with help from my friends, a great decision in the end as I found the whole hair salon thing quite stressful! We decided to order some 20” pizzas from our favourite takeaway for the evening food and didn’t visit them until the evening before, luckily they were happy to do it! The two days we had off work before the wedding were completely manic, lots of stuff had to be done that couldn’t be done earlier such as decorating the marquee, and doing the table plan, but we also left other stuff until the last minute that we should have done earlier such as printing our orders of service, making buttonholes, buying presents for my parents etc… By the evening before the wedding I was absolutely shattered and totally wired, I had no time whatsoever to pamper myself or relax, we were running around Tescos at 9.30pm buying last minute things before Rog dropped me off with one of the bridesmaids for a very late takeaway, glass of wine and bed.

Having said all that, on the day everything went to plan, the service was lovely, the rickshaw plan worked out fantastically, the caterers were brilliant and just got on and did everything for us in a very unobtrusive way and went above and beyond what we were expecting. Everything went smoothly and we could just get on and enjoy it. We really pulled together in the end, Rog was very calm and collected and this wore off on me, after all at the end of the day the most important thing was that we were married and that we and our guests had a good time. If we were to do it again we wouldn’t change anything! Even the weather behaved itself.

Budget… We’re not sure what counts as a budget wedding these days, ours cost about £8,000 altogether.

The Venue… Our ceremony took place in All Hallows church, my parent’s parish church which I attended, religiously as a child.  It’s a lovely church with gorgeous stained glass windows. The reception took place at my parents’ house which is a beautiful Georgian house they’ve lived in since I was eleven. We had the post wedding drinks and cake in the back garden and the meal in a marquee in the front garden. I hired some fancy portaloos as my parents plumbing is almost as old as the house! Our only concern about our chosen venue was the weather. We didn’t really want people in the marquee until it was time to eat at about 6pm, and if it had been raining it would have been a tight squeeze to fit everyone in the house. We obsessively checked the long range forecast, it had been such a good summer but you never know when your weather luck will run out. Thankfully we were OK, it was a bit breezy and not that warm, but warm enough to be outside for a few hours, and no rain!

The Dress + Accessories… My dress was very simple and unembellished which meant I had a bit of freedom on accessories. I wanted something to synch in my waist and looked around for bridal sashes but didn’t much fancy anything I saw so I decided to make my own. I learnt how to make silk flowers using a candle (look it up it’s dead easy), and attached these so a length of ivory fabric. The trickiest bit was hemming the slippery fabric, it was a bit of a botch job but I don’t think anyone noticed. The sash cost me about £3 to make! I borrowed my veil and sparkly Alice band from a friend who got married a few months earlier, they say it’s good luck to wear the veil of a happily married woman. My necklace was borrowed from one of my bridesmaids, so all I bought  otherwise was a pair of earrings and my shoes. I wanted some really brightly coloured shoes instead of the usual bridal pale satiny ones and found the perfect pair in M&S , some bright red peep toes with a low heel so I didn’t tower over Rog! I had to take them off before too long though as they hurt, but I’ll wear them again.

Finding the Dress…  I had a mortal fear of wedding dress shops, I think it stems from the film Bridesmaids where they all have food poisoning during the fitting session! Plus I wasn’t sure my budget would stretch to something very fancy. On our first “Bridesmaids Brunch”  back in January my maids and I went for a peruse around the shops for some initial inspiration; we visited Monsoon where they were having a sale of some of their wedding dresses, I tried on three, not expecting much, and fell in love with one of them, the cheapest one! It was £68 down from more than £200. We looked in a few other places but nothing inspired me, so I returned to Monsoon and grabbed the bargain gown.  I think my bridesmaids were quite pleased at the ease of the whole process, and so was I. Plus I got to have my dress at home and try it on whenever the mood struck. I’d definitely recommend brides to have a look on the high street in places like Monsoon as there are some lovely and very affordable dresses out there. After the wedding my dress was filthy, stained and had a rip in it so I am very glad I didn’t pay a fortune for it.

Groom’s Attire… Shopping for Roger’s outfit was much more of a chore than shopping for mine! I think we made about 4 shopping trips to deliberate over various tweed-esque suits. A real Harris tweed suit could have cost a bomb, and though we tried to find second hand ones, they were still really pricey. Rog and his best man wanted a vintage look and finally found their suits in Next. They got the same suit but Rog got a waistcoat too to make him look a bit special. Tom, the best man bought Rog an Irvine clan tartan tie to wear and I made all the male bridal party a button hole silk flower, a job I accidentally left til the Thursday before the wedding and was up until midnight trying to put them together!

The Readings + Music… As we had a church ceremony we let the organist get on and play whatever he wanted to play so I wasn’t actually sure what I would be walking down the aisle to, I think it was Wagners Bridal Chorus but to be honest it could have been anything I was so nervous! We had two hymns , Morning has Broken as we figured most people would know that, and One More Step Along the World I go, which I think was apt given our love of travel. My mum read a bible reading and bridesmaid Jane read a cute piece I found online which compared marriage with riding a bicycle. The vicar then rolled with this theme and gave a very appropriately cycling themed address which we really enjoyed. We really got into the ceremony once the initial nerves subsided and we’d got through the formalities.

Beautiful Bridesmaids… We had three grown up bridesmaids and two flower girls. The bridesmaids were three of my best friends Han, Jane and Catherine, and the flower girls were my nieces Jennifer and Romilly. Just a few days after I asked her to be bridesmaid Jane found out she was pregnant with the due date perilously close to the wedding, however we decided to go with the flow and see how she felt nearer the time; In the end it worked out fine, she was able to participate fully in the wedding including doing a reading, and had a baby girl, my lovely little niece Eleanor, a week and a half later!

Outfits wise I was keen on the idea of the bridesmaids having different dresses in a similar shade, and as Han found a lovely blue dress in John Lewis on our first shopping trip, the other ladies chose complementary dresses in similar shades of blue. They were all from different shops but I think they all went together nicely. I chose coral and cream stripy dresses for the flower girls which I think provided a nice contrast to the blue. The bridesmaids all wore their own shoes and accessories, however I made them all their own personalised brooch bouquet.  We all did our own hair and make-up.

The Flowers… I decided early on to make my own bouquet having seen the idea for brooch bouquets online and watching a youtube tutorial in how to make them. I had plenty of old brooches and costume jewellery knocking around and bought a red artificial hydrangea and put my bouquet together. I was so pleased with it that I decided to make a further five for all the bridesmaids! This was a bit of an undertaking as I had run out of brooches, so I had to scrounge off friends, trawl charity shops and obsessively search ebay for job lots of broken jewellery. I tried to make each one a little personal to the bridesmaid, getting brooches with their initials on and ones that reflected their interests such as an Everton FC brooch for Han and some cats for Catherine! It took a long time to get all the brooches and to find suitable artificial flowers as the bases (some are too cheap and fall to bits or are too delicate to support the brooches). Once I had all the materials and had wired up all the brooches, which also takes ages, it was pretty easy putting the final thing together.  My mum arranged a few flowers in the church from the regular flower ladies, and her lovely garden meant no need for additional flowers at the reception. Instead of flowers on the tables we gave every grown up guest, or every couple a little succulent plant that we’d bought a month or so earlier at a market in Liverpool, and just about kept alive, wrapped in some tissue and tied with a bow.

The Cake… My very talented sister Lizzie made our cake, she’s done lots of occasion cakes before so I knew we were in safe hands. I showed her my wedding pinterest board and said we wanted something brightly coloured maybe with a bicycle theme, and left it at that. What she came up with was our amazing Tour de France cake. Each layer represents the different jerseys in the Tour de France, polkadot King of the Mountains Jersey, the Yellow jersey for the leader and the rainbow world champion jersey. So she fit the brief of every level. It tasted great too.

Your Photographer… For a long time during the planning we weren’t going to have a photographer at all as we thought it would cost us a fortune. We figured we could rely on friends and family to take the pictures. As the big day approached I began to have second thoughts about this plan as I knew friends would lose interest once the home brew started flowing, and it wasn’t as though we could go back and do it all again if we didn’t get the shots we wanted. So with a month to go I did some frantic asking around and through a guy who volunteers for the charity I work for Lisa Howard was recommended to us and thankfully she was available on the day. Lisa and I met up before the wedding to go through what our style was and what sort of shots we wanted, it was great to get to know each other a bit too. Rog was still very dubious about paying for a photographer, he thought she’d be distracting in the church and we would get all the pictures we wanted from our guests. Lisa proved him wrong and he’s happily conceded that she was a great idea. We love our photos, she captured the mood of the day, lots of happy faces, and all the little bits and pieces we made ourselves and slaved over! The pictures of us on our own when we snuck away from the reception are some of my favourites, alongside the cute shots of my nieces stuffing their faces with cake. Yes we got lots of great shots from guest too, but after a while they were all a bit drunk and Lisa was worth every penny. I swear she made Rog look ten years younger too…

The Details + Decor… It was quite difficult to envisage how the wedding would look until the marquee was put up three days prior. As such we kept things like table decorations pretty simple. I bought some brightly coloured lanterns for each table which we supplemented with tea lights. My flower girl Romilly decorated all the table numbers and the Mr and Mrs sign for the top table, and the wedding favours which were succulent plants wrapped up in tissue finished off the look. Our tables were crammed with the maximum number of guest so once all the glassware, crockery and wine was on the table there wasn’t room for anything else anyway!  We strung a bit of bunting and some fairy lights up here and there too. I used mine and bridesmaid Janes’ lovely vintage bicycles as props to hold the table plan and for people to deposit their cards. My friend gave me some pom poms left over from her wedding to decorate the rickshaws and Jane made a Just Married sign and we tied empty beer cans to the back.  Mum supplied all the vintage tea cups and saucers for the afternoon tea, and I bought cheap and cheerful things like stripy paper straws for the Pimms. Once all the guest were packed in to my parents back garden and into the marquee there wasn’t much room for any more decoration so I am glad we didn’t go overboard.  I really enjoyed the crafty bits of the wedding, I made the invitations, bouquets, buttonholes, my bridal sash, the table plan and the labels for the home brew and it felt great when people commented on them.

The Honeymoon… Rog has had a long time ambition to go cycling in France, in particular to take on one of the famous mountain stages of the Tour De France, Mont Ventoux. To persuade me that this was a good honeymoon idea he promised it was only one day of hard cycling and for the rest of the two weeks I had free reign on what we did. It also meant we had to train for our honeymoon, but it meant we didn’t need to go on any silly pre wedding diets! We travelled to Paris by Eurostar and had a couple of nights there before heading to Provence where we had 5 nights in a lovely gite in the middle of vineyards in the foothills of Mon Ventoux. We rented some bikes and set off up the mountain  alongside 500 Dutch cyclists on a charity ride. It was hard going, 22km of solid climbing up a mountain twice the height of Snowdon, however we managed it, just about, and it was one of the highlights of the trip. To recover we had 3 nights of luxury in Cassis on the coast, before more sightseeing in Avignon and then home. It was a lovely holiday, especially as we hadn’t been abroad together for three years! We went two days after the wedding, which meant it took us a few days to wind down, but we were still feeling very euphoric that everything went so well, and we could while away the evenings with red wine and wedding stories.

Memorable Moments… The whole day was fab and we wouldn’t change a thing, except to have the ability to slow down time and enjoy each moment for longer. The service was lovely, especially the personalisation that the vicar added in his address which was all themed around cycling. The Rickshaw ride back to the reception was great fun, especially being cheered and congratulated by passers by! The enthusiasm for the home brew was a great relief! We had to restock the home brew bar several times as people kept coming back for more. The speeches were all great, really funny, and not too long! The cake my sister made was fab, and a great surprise as we didn’t get to see it until the day of the wedding Later in the evening when we had a dance my two older sisters, with whom we are not generally very affectionate, got really drunk and danced away with us which was very funny! Seeing people make new friends and everyone getting along! Being the last people at the end, switching the lights off, zipping up the marquee and toddling off up the road at 3am to our bed and breakfast, tired and happy.

Advice for Other Couples… Don’t over plan for the day itself, remember your suppliers do this as a career, they know what they are doing and as long as you’ve told them what you want you don’t have to micro manage them! Put yourselves in your guests shoes, would you have fun as a guest at your own wedding?! This is what we kept thinking, and hopefully we achieved it. Make it personal, do what you want to do, don’t be put off if other people think your ideas are strange, everyone has their own view on what weddings should be like, but if you want to do something different just do it, all the new ideas have to start somewhere.

Take a good few days off beforehand for last minute preparation, don’t leave things that can be done earlier to the last minute. If you are going to make stuff yourself leave plenty of time to do it, and if you are mass producing something, make sure it’s easy or fun to do or you will grow to hate it! Don’t be afraid to beg steal and borrow things from family and friends. A friend who got married a few months before us lent us tonnes of stuff including a veil, hair piece, lights, pom poms, speakers, candles.  It saved us a fortune and no one noticed,  we’d happily lend our wedding stuff to other people. Pinterest is really great for wedding planning!

Credit Where Credit is Due…

Crabtree Marquees  http://www.crabtreemarquees.co.uk/

Amber Outside Catering http://www.amberoutsidecatering.co.uk/

Cestrian Loos http://www.cestrianloos.co.uk/

Lisa Howard Photography http://lisahowardphotography.co.uk/

Ukeleles http://levenshulmeukeup.tumblr.com/

Facepainting http://www.face2facekidz.co.uk/index.html

Homebrewing http://www.lovebrewing.co.uk/


How wonderful. And their cycling honeymoon sounded incredible. Thanks so much to Alice and Roger for sharing their gorgeous wedding with us today XOXO Lou

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