Abbie & Alex
Port Lympne Hotel
Photographed by Louisa Dettmer Wedding Photography
Port Lympne Hotel weddings offer a truly exotic and enchanting experience for couples seeking an unforgettable setting for their special day. Nestled within the expansive Port Lympne Reserve, these weddings provide a unique blend of natural beauty and architectural grandeur. The hotel itself boasts stunning Victorian architecture, with ornate details and elegant interiors that exude sophistication and luxury. Couples can choose from various venues within the estate, including the imposing Pinewood ceremony hall, offering panoramic views of the reserve, or the tranquil gardens overlooking picturesque landscapes. Furthermore, Port Lympne Hotel provides exceptional service in organizing every aspect of the wedding, from planning to catering and accommodation for guests. The dedicated team of event planners ensures that each wedding is meticulously tailored to meet individual preferences, creating a truly bespoke experience. With its breath-taking surroundings and attention to detail, Port Lympne Hotel promises an enchanting celebration amidst nature’s splendour.
Abbie & Alex held their big day at the stunning Port Lympne Hotel after a traditional service at St. John the Baptist church in Tunstall, Sittingbourne. The day was relaxed and filled with smiles and laughter from all the wedding party, a highlight being the early evening safari which turned into a karaoke session.
The couple were lucky enough to have their wedding featured in the 2018/19 issue of Kent Bride magazine which you can purchase online or from local shops like M&S.
I’ve included the interview below for your reading pleasure.
After excitingly booking a holiday to Iceland with my best friend, sister and their partners, we started planning the places we would visit whilst there. Of course, we were so hoping to see the Northern lights and on our first night, that is exactly what we saw. The aurora lights were beautiful and the perfect proposal setting; all apart from the darkness, which did not allow for the perfect proposal photo. Unknown to me (bride), my sister and now husband agreed that despite the beautiful scenery, a photo was most definitely needed to capture ‘that moment’.
Given this, we booked a Golden circle tour for the next day. After a very rough night sleep, Alex woke up knowing today would be the day. After seeing the naturally occurring wonders of Iceland, we finished our tour at the amazing Gullfoss waterfall. The waterfall was accompanied by a bright blue sky complete with the biggest rainbow we have ever seen. After posing for a photo, I turned to Alex and he said he had something to tell me. Confused, I asked if he was okay and then he proceeded to get down on one knee and with my full name, ask for my hand in marriage. It was a very heartfelt and undeniable YES! The trip was just perfect and it was also even more wonderful and my best friend was also proposed to whilst we were there, making it a holiday to remember.
Your dress. Did it take long to find? Was it exactly as you’ve always imagined? How many dresses did you try on?
You always dream of the dress! Every bride has an image in their mind of the perfect dress and I went out bridal shopping in such fear that this dress I had in my mind would never materialise. After looking in 4 bridal shops and trying on what must have been over 30 dresses, I hadn’t yet had that ‘wow’ moment. Everyone says that you know when you find the dress but I hadn’t had that yet.
Finally, I had my last appointment at Isabella Grace in Tunbridge Wells. After trying on 3 dresses in the shop, I had one more to try on which was a fishtail style dress, complete with a belt, hanging in front of me. My first reaction was that it was beautiful but would it suit me. I had always imagined myself in something fitted but not with such a defined fishtail finish. After trying on the dress and looking in the mirror I just could not believe it! I had found the dress. It was definitely a best till the last scenario. It was such a lovely experience and one I will never forget.
Why did you choose your venue? Did you have a specific place in mind from an early stage?
When hunting for venues, we both wanted somewhere a little bit different but also somewhere that could offer fun and excitement to our guests as well as being meaningful for us. When we were looking we were not sure what that little bit different was until we visited Port Lympne.
We visited the venue on a cold winters night and it was raining and dark. Despite the weather, we just fell in love with the venue and everything it represented. Some of Alex’s fondest memories of his grandad consist of loving family zoo visits. Given the zoo element to the venue and the fact it is part of The Aspinall Foundation, we just loved the venue even more. The venue also had a lot to offer with the main mansion house, orangery style reception room and the chance for our day guests to go on a safari around the zoo after the wedding breakfast!
Did you have a theme or particular colour scheme? Why did you choose this?
With the wedding colours, we went with less is more. We mostly stuck to the colour white for our decor, as we loved the elegance it brought to the venue. Our chair covers where white drapes with pearl ties and then we had white flowers around the wedding breakfast room. The Aspinal Suite room is decorated with white ceiling drapes and chandeliers, which complimented the white decoration.
What did the bridesmaids wear?
I wasn’t able to choose bridesmaid dresses as I was so indecisive in the decision making. My sister took on this responsibility and she found the most perfect dresses. The dresses were mink and long in length. The top part of the dress was complete with sequin sparkle and all the bridesmaid just looked sensational in the dresses. The dresses also matched the venue decor really well and complimented the colours of the groomsmen party.
And the groom/groomsmen?
The groom and his groomsmen chose blue suits with a silver waistcoat and tie. They all looked so smart and when pictured with the bridesmaid, we were so happy with the overall wedding look!
What flowers did you choose?
The bridal party had white bouquets filled with peonies and rose’s, which we felt were perfect wedding flowers as they are soft and delicate but are equally structurally strong and they survived the whole day and evening in one piece. The groom and groomsmen each has white roses with some green foliage. On each table we had white floral centre pieces, which comprised of peonies, roses, hydrangeas, gypsophilia and green foliage. We were over the moon with our flowers and the look they added to the wedding decor.
And your cake?
Our cake was 4 tiers and each tier was a different flavour. We had victoria sponge, chocolate, lemon and coffee and walnut. The cake was finished with royal icing and individually handmade sugar flowers, which I know took several dedicated hours to make. At the bottom of our cake stand we had real roses. The colours of the cake were white and pale pink.
Tell us about the ceremony? How did you feel walking down the aisle, were there any funny or touching moments. Did you have any personal readings etc?
The ceremony was all we could have wished for and more. Alex was waiting in the church and it was announced when the bridal party had arrived. This was one moment that I had been dreaming of more than any other. My father had previously been in ill health and told that he would likely not see us get married. We had come to terms with that, however after a miracle; he was there, with me on his arm, about to walk me down the aisle. When the bridesmaid had gone into the church, I turned to him and say “we made it”. We both very proudly walked into the church and I could not control my smile. I was about to marry the most wonderful person and seeing Alex at the end of the aisle is a moment I will cherish forever. The ceremony was beautiful and we had a harpist as well as the church choir and organist. During the ceremony, we had three reading from members of the bridal party and each were so heartfelt. One of the readings was from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the others from Carinthian’s and a poem personally adapted to incorporate us.
Tell us about arriving at the reception, the photos, the wedding breakfast plus décor, any entertainment, the speeches…
When we arrived at the reception our guests were all outside on the terrace space overlooking the Romney marshes. Whilst they had canapes and arrival drinks, there was a pianist playing outside and it was such a loving and joyful atmosphere. During the arrival drinks, we went off with our photographers to various locations around the grounds of Port Lympne. The photos consisted of shots of the large pond area, the tree walkway and by the steps that lead up to the lion’s den!
Our photographers were fantastic at gathering our friends and family for the group shots. One of the photos even captured one of the groomsman accidentally setting off the confetti cannon before it was time and this just all added to the laughter of the day. Our wedding decor was kept plain with white ceiling drapes, chandeliers and large glass vases that had floral centrepieces beautifully placed on each one.
We made our own place cards and went to Costco to buy our macaroon wedding favours. On our wedding invites we had a wax stamp made that said A&A, so we carried this theme throughout the wedding, having A&A light-up letters outside on the grass areas and A&A personalised rose gold stickers on the wedding favours.
On our guestbook table we had wedding photos of both sets as parents as well as both sets of grandparents as all still remain married, which is something we are very proud of. We had four speeches and they were everything you could hope for; funny, emotional and definitely ones to remember. We had the groom’s speech where Alex thanked family members, giving out flowers as well as the best man and father of the bride speeches. To break tradition, my maid of honour also gave a speech and it was emotional and hilarious, even taking the mickey out of Alex, which his friends seemed to very much enjoy! The guests all went on a safari after the wedding breakfast, which was really exciting and not something you usually do at a wedding.
Did you have any evening entertainment?
For our evening entertainment, we had a photo booth, which was occupied all night long. We also had a DJ, who played some great songs and kept the dance floor filled until the lights come up.
What was your first dance?
We decided to go with Rod Stewart, ‘Have I told you lately’. The words in this song really resonate with us and on our honeymoon, the song actually played in a taxi in Dubai which was a lovely coincidence. I also had a dance with my father accompanied by the song ‘isn’t she lovely’-Stevie Wonder.
Where was your honeymoon? Did you go immediately after the wedding or leave it a few days?
We waited around 4 days after the wedding until we went on our honeymoon and this gave us a chance to pack and finish the post wedding celebrations with family and friends. We stayed in the Maldives for a week followed by Dubai. Both were incredible locations and offered two different elements to the honeymoon. The Maldives was just paradise and in our eyes, the perfect honeymoon destination. Dubai offered the chance for us to explore and one of the highlights was a desert safari with a camel ride (slightly different to the safari we had on the wedding day!).
Top tip(s) for other brides:
Make sure to take some hair curlers to your venue. I did not have any and felt my hair could have done with being touched up half way through the night. Pack some face powder in your clutch bag as well as lip gloss so you can top up throughout the day. The day goes so quickly do don’t forget to dance, have a drink and just enjoy. My biggest tip of all is bring spare shoes! My shoes were so painful and I was very grateful I had a spare pair of white heels to put on part way through the day.
St. John the Baptist Church, Sittingbourne
Justin Alexander Dress
Flowers & Venue Styling: