When it comes to unique wedding reception activities, Gemma and Chris’ birds of prey demonstration at their Elmley Nature Reserve wedding just might take the cake! The reserve, which offers cozy event spaces as well as bird viewing points and natural trails, allowed The Hawking Centre to bring several large birds — including an incredible vulture — for any brave wedding guests to meet and hold. A few of the birds even made a sweet private appearance in the couple’s portrait session with Ed Godden Photography! As you can imagine, Gemma and Chris’ wedding was anything but traditional and was essentially a masterclass in earthy and bohemian style. From the DIY reception decor that featured greenery hoops, garlands, succulents, and glass menus to the groom and groomsmen’s handmade feather bow ties, every detail fit perfectly with the couple’s vibe. The true showstopper for us, though, was the bride’s boho Rue De Seine gown, which she paired with hand-feather sandals, henna tattoos, and a hand-painted white leather jacket.
Gemma and Chris
Elmley Nature Reserve, Swale, England
We wanted the day to reflect our personalities and all the things we loved. This meant finding the perfect venue that was relaxed and natural but still allowed us to throw a really good party. Once we’d found Elmley Nature Reserve, it gave us so much inspiration for the day. Being in the middle of a nature reserve dedicated to birds, we really embraced this as our theme as we’re both very passionate about nature. Then it was working on all the little touches to ensure they were as personal as they could be. We did as much as possible ourselves, which included designing and making the wedding stationery, creating the signage, the place names, the table runners, the photo booth backdrop, hand making the groomsmen’s bow ties, and painting my own leather jacket. We then spent two days prior to the wedding decorating the venue with our family to truly make it our own. For us, this was as much a part of the experience as the day itself, and we loved every minute.
Having 5 stunning birds of prey join us was the most memorable part of the day. We were a little apprehensive in the run up to the wedding about how it would go down with our guests, knowing that some of them had bird phobias! But when they arrived, they couldn’t have been more popular. Everyone was in awe and wanted to help them, even Lurch the White Backed Vulture. It wasn’t traditional wedding reception entertainment but I think it’s the bit our guests will remember for a long time and it made for some incredible photos.
We knew neither of us would wear traditional wedding attire as it wouldn’t be a traditional wedding. Although it was a summer wedding, I knew I wanted lace and long sleeves but in a cool, quirky style. I already loved Rue De Seine and their new collection launched just as I started looking. As soon as I saw the Avril gown online, I knew it was the one. I fell even more in love once I tried the dress on and every time I went for a fitting — I never wanted to take it off. Everything else came afterwards. The patterns on the dress inspired me to get henna tattoos on my hands and feet and also inspired the ferns and foliage in my flower crown and bouquet. I decorated my own shoes with tassels and feathers to go with the bird theme and then hand painted a cream studded leather jacket that I would wear later in the evening to fit the theme. Because of the nude slip, I decided to go for white bridesmaid dresses as a contrast and it worked perfectly. The bridesmaids also had smaller versions of my flower crown and bouquets.
Our photographers and videographers were both so ace! They all felt like old friends and fit in so well — we couldn’t have wished for anything more. We didn’t have any formal shots and went with the documentary style of photography that Ed specializes in, which made it even more relaxed. We just did our thing and Ed snapped away. We were absolutely blown away with the outcome of both the photos and the video! They perfectly reflected our day and are memories we’ll treasure forever.
Music is a huge part of our relationship, so we chose songs that reflected us as a couple and fit with the sentiment of our day. I walked down the aisle to “Strange and Beautiful” by Aqualung, which is quite ethereal and created such an intense atmosphere. We walked back down the aisle to “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. It’s a really folky song with the main chorus saying, “Home is wherever I’m with you,’ which perfectly embodies how we feel about each other. Our first dance was “River” by Leon Bridges, which is our favorite song by our favorite artist. Although we knew a lot of people wouldn’t know it, it was perfect for us because it meant so much.
The Wedding Team:
Photography – Ed Godden Photography
Venue – Elmley Nature Reserve
Bouquets, Floral Crowns, and Boutonnieres – See Rose Floral Design
Venue Floral Arrangements – Ellis Madden Bespoke Floral Artists
Live Music – The Colts
Videography – Costa Sister Productions
Makeup Artist – Glamour Junkiez
Hair Styling – Lauren Taylor
Wedding Dress – Rue De Seine
Bridesmaids’ Apparel – Boohoo and Coast
Groom’s Apparel – Tweed Addict
Rentals – All Things Borrowed
Birds of Prey – The Hawking Centre
Congratulations to Gemma and Chris, and a big thanks to Ed Godden Photography for sharing this incredible wedding with Junebug! Love the free-spirit vibes they used? We guarantee Olga and Chris’ free-spirited Sauvie Island wedding will steal your heart!