For our wedding blessing at Maunsel House in Somerset we wanted to recreate the romance of Italy in a marquee in Somerset, which is no mean feat! Nick has worked with the fabulous Julia Kendell on DIY SOS for many years and she has become a wonderful friend of ours. True to her word she created heaven on earth in both the church and the marquee. I sat down with her to find out how she did it and more so how she kept her cool!
What made you say yes to taking on a project of this sort?
[Ha!!] I have been looking for a new challenge, possibly without realising, and was in the fortunate position of having the time to dedicate to it. I gain a huge sense of satisfaction from putting a smile on people’s faces and knowing how much it can mean to create something beautiful just for them. I experience this when working on shows such as DIYSOS and it is an utter privilege. To be able to create the perfect wedding day for two of my dearest friends was an opportunity I couldn’t possibly turn down.
How did it differ from designing for a permanent liveable structure?
Working within a marquee is definitely very different to designing a solid structure. There are limitations in respect of weight on the structure, therefore a limit to size and number of light fittings that could be supported, and the soft sides remove the possibility of hanging anything from them. The cavernous space means that everything needs to be scaled up so as not to get lost or look ‘mean’.
Only required for one day, many marquee interiors can look cold and ‘cheap’ as often outdoor furniture is used and cheap props and decoration chosen. I was determined with the design that the marquee should feel like an elegant interior using beautiful pieces of furniture (pinched from the house) and the best quality props available.
Were there any last minute troubles that you kept from me?
Yes, but I’ll never let on as I don’t want your memories to be anything other than they are now!
What was your favourite thing about the marquee design?
I think the flowers made the overall design. they were so completely stunning and they also filled the air with a scent of roses. When designing any interior I always try to ensure its a ‘sensory’ experience as ‘visual’ just isn’t enough to achieve something special.
What was your favourite thing about the church?
Apart from the spectacularly funny vicar?! The candlelight was the most important element of the church design and worked beautifully to create a magical and dreamy setting.
How crucial would you say lighting was to both the church and the marquee and for you why did this hold such an importance when planning the look of both?
Lighting is always important in any room scheme, but in a marquee it is imperative to ensure the lighting creates an intimate atmosphere, particularly with an English Winter giving it’s best on the other side of the thin fabric walls. I wanted also to create changes of moods throughout the evening to keep the guests enthralled and produce an almost theatrical experience.
Most churches are lit these days by poor quality energy saving bulbs that do nothing to enhance the architecture and mood within the building. The lighting engineers worked their magic to subtly pick out architectural detail, produce a warm and inviting glow, backlight the stained glass window to bring it to life and added ‘haze’ to create the dreamy feel.
What was the most enjoyable part of the experience?
I honestly enjoyed the whole experience but seeing it all come together as I had intended and the look on everyone’s faces as they entered both the church and the marquee was awesome.
How did you find your suppliers?
I took local advice from those I trusted and asked to see images of previous work from potential suppliers. As with any design, you place huge faith in your suppliers to interpret your wishes and provide on time, on budget and to the desired quality. Time is well spent ensuring you have the right suppliers on board and never assuming anything.
When you have a theme like an Italian winter wedding how do you keep on the elegant side of the line without going totally kitsch and literal and ending up with it looking ‘big fat gypsy wedding’
Absolutely by using the best quality of everything possible. We had stunning crockery and glassware, luscious tablecloths and very realistic props. Anything less would have looked like it was ‘trying’ rather than ‘achieving’.
How do you know when to stop? When is there enough stuff in the marquee or the church?
When the budget runs out probably! It is extremely difficult to know when to stop and actually, as with television design, having a budget focusses the mind on achieving the best possible with what you have. I could have brought in more drapery, an expensive bar etc but actually no one other than me would have known any different. Good lighting can fill-in gaps if the budget is running low and you are tempted to over-spend on unnecessary items.
Did it make it more or less stressful for you that Nick and I didn’t see the marquee until all our guests had arrived and were seated?
I have to say I hadn’t really thought of it like that. I was adamant that you should not be involved in the run-up to it and therefore be able to walk in and see it and enjoy it as a whole rather than the many different elements that made it what it was. After all, it was your special day.
I was super-stressed that you and Nick would like it (knowing how fussy you both are!!) but knew, whatever, that I had taken the stress from you and that was my main focus.
Were you there to see everyones reactions when they walked in? How did it feel?
It was just brilliant. I dashed back from the church to ensure I was one of the first in. That was also the first time I had seen it with the candles lit, the waiting staff there with trays of champagne and canapes etc. I stood back (with a glass of champagne) and watched everyone’s jaws drop as they entered. But when you and Nick arrived the look on your face made me cry buckets.
The song that was playing when we entered the marquee (Donna Lewis I love you always forever) ; why that song? It was a childhood favourite of mine and when we walked in brought back so many memories of my journey up until this point, it was then for me that it felt like someone had pressed a pause button in time and we were in a real life fairy tale.
I confess that was not of my choosing, but I am so thrilled that it meant so much to you. I am a great believer in fate and I had asked the sound engineers if they had an appropriate song for you to enter to. They were sure they had exactly the right piece and as they had done such an amazing job to that point I felt I could trust them. It was clearly meant to be.
To see the full effect of the design Julia created pick up a copy of Ultimate Wedding Magazine.