Rufus and Claire’s Musical Secret Garden Wedding Ceremony

Rufus and Claire’s secret garden wedding ceremony may not be quite so secret now having been featured on our favourite wedding blog Festival Brides. However if there ever there was a secret garden this is it! Photographer Ryan at ShutterGoClick captures this fantastical ceremony and location with it’s hidden pathways and hideaways, enchanting views, little ponds, wooden seats and beautiful wild flower gardens. It the sort of magical place that you would find the world famous Cottingley Fairies, if they really did exist! Rufus and Claire were so lucky to be able have their wedding ceremony here in Rufus’ Uncle & Aunt’s beautiful English country garden, in the quaint village of Green Hammerton in York. They worked tirelessly over the year to make there garden perfect, even growing flowers to fit with their chosen colours.

“Everyone commented on how amazing it looked and that it really did feel like a secret garden.” Claire Over the last few years they have been making a special effort to encourage bees by introducing more wildflowers and bee friendly flowers. We, ourselves are great supporters of the Great British Garden Revival (#gbgr) and work with local flower growers to provide seasonal British flowers to use in our ceremony area designs; Rufus and Claire had it all here though, which is, after all, the attraction and beauty of having a garden wedding!!  Guests arrived through the cobbled pathway entrance decorated with lanterns and delicate fairy-lit hangings creating an air of anticipation of what was to come. 

Balloons lined the aisle bobbing in the breeze, almost in time to the sounds of an  accoustic medley played by Seth Meshowitz from the band Fold FM which together created an ambience as guests arrived and explored the wonderful garden. “Jan had her own wedding ceremony in her garden so she completely understood the direction that we wanted with our wedding…” Claire

We knew their ceremony was always going to be a musical one from the first time we met. Writing, singing, performing and dancing to music is one of the things that connects them, it is part of their DNA as a couple and makes them happy. Rufus plays in two bands so it was really important that there was lots of live music. When we visited Croft Cottage and looked around we spotted a beautiful spiral staircase in the orangery that we instantly new would make the perfect bridal entrance.

“Jan came and visited us at the ceremony venue and helped visualise the setting for the day including the idea that I would make my entrance walking down the spiral staircase and the best ways of utilising areas of the garden. ” Claire

On the day, Claire made one of the bedrooms that opens onto the orangery balcony her dressing room. The staircase was lined with pretty glass jars filled with flowers from the garden. The only difficulty we foresaw was whether Claire would be able to get down the staircase in her statement shoes – a pink version of the shoes that Carrie Bradshaw wore when marrying Big in “Sex and the City”- so she did that bit barefoot and her pink beauties were waiting for her at the bottom the stairs!!

Bridesmaids and pageboys helped with the little details collecting the dried flower petals from the garden for the confetti. Claire and Rufus, like many couples, were not keen on the formal nature of traditional ceremonies, it made them feel uncomfortable and out of their comfort zone. We’re always up for trying new ideas so we decided to try a different approach that would make them feel more at ease. We told their story almost entirely through music using songs, accoustic guitar, lyrics, the spoken word and poetry to give more relaxed a festival spirit.

“Jan was great; she understood our vision and produced the whole script, from choosing my entrance song to the readings and the songs. We were really impressed by it all.” Claire

After their “First Read” of their script Rufus actually said that he felt “inspired”, just the gut reaction we like from our couples!
Guests were all seated, our beautiful Bridesmaids lined the orangery holding simple but pretty bouquets of gypsophila, while Rufus stood beside his best man awaiting his “first look” of his bride. This brilliant shot by Ryan captures the moment Claire stepped onto the mezzanine balcony ready to make her entrance to the superb “Dance Me to the End of Love” by Civil Wars -it’s still gives us goose pimples when we hear it.

The lyrics “Oh dance me to the wedding now, oh, dance me on and on And dance me very tenderly and dance me very long. We’re both of us beneath our love, and both of us above. And dance me to the end of love, ooh won’t you dance me to the end of love” perfectly sums up her love of music, dance and Rufus. 

Claire dad’s gave her away and together Rufus and Claire walked down the aisle hand in hand together with the bridesmaids leading the procession into the garden to cheers and clapping. 

“Jan was great; she understood our vision and produced the whole script, from choosing my entrance song to the readings and the songs. We were really impressed by it all. On the day it all flowed together with live music and singing from everyone.” Claire

As lovers and dog lovers, it was only right that their Cockapoo “molly” featured somewhere in their ceremony (she was a bit too excitable to make a contribution herself) so Rufus’ sister read “Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog” by Taylor Mali. You’ll be pleased to hear that she did however, make it to an “official” wedding shot and was very quick to take to the dance floor later on at the reception!!!

“And all these useless dreams of living alone like a dogless bone… So come let me love you. Come let me love you. And then… colour me in” Damien Rice. Rufus has music running through his veins, it is his language; he has always written songs since he can remember and his guitar is his most prized possession, other than Claire obviously!

Music for him is about self expression and a cathartic experience, interpreting life through his own filter so we were very careful in our choice of lyrics; they were from musicians they both admired and took inspiration from and they had specific meaning for them like “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man” by Damien Rice. Others included Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s “Every Part of You”: “Every part of you is just another part of me. The memories you created and everything I do, all the million pieces is part of me and you we are like the birds in the air we are like the notes in a song where you are is where I belong Notice how the river finds its way into the sea, every part of you is another part of me.”
As big fans of the Big Apple, New York is a place that has a special magic for them, it’s cool and filled with exciting people, a vibrant city that inspires them to dream and a place they’d like to live and be part of one day, so “New York” by Frank Sinatra was another fitting choice.

Live music was key to creating a relaxed festival feel and we were so pleased when fellow band member of the Four 45’s and friend Joe Flanagan stepped up to the mark to be our partner in crime and play a couple Beatles numbers for us: “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and our last big sing where everyone joined in to” I Get by With a Little Help From My Friends”. Perfecto!

Claire and Rufus wanted the vows part of the ceremony to remain quite traditional and choosing to say “I do.

Then the moment Rufus was waiting for “Toothpase Kisses” by the Macabees which played while they signed their certificate.

“We had said all along we wanted a unique ceremony that everyone would remember and I think this was achieved, many said afterwards that this was one of the best ceremonies they had ever attended and also it was so nice to actually sit and listen to something a little more personal. A lot of people were surprised too that this type of service exists; only thinking that you can hold a ceremony in a licensed venue. I would definitely recommend this option if any brides were thinking about this for their big day, it’s a great way to put your own individual stamp on your wedding day.” ClaireAfter the ceremony everyone made their way over to the neighbouring village of Whixely  where the celebrations continued with food, fun, laughter, merriment, speeches, lots of music, of course, and a very, very special song written and sung by Rufus for his beautiful new wife. The perfect end to their story.

If you’ve been inspired Rufus and Claire’s not so secret garden wedding ceremony and musical medley celebrations and would like us to create a more personal and unique ceremony for you at your private home or estate, an off the beaten track or outdoor location then drop Jan a line: ceremonies@janshillito.co.uk. You can find more inspiration and real weddings here.

The line up:

Ceremony: Celebration Ceremonies & Weddings

Photography: ShutterGoClick

Marquee: Wills Marquees

Flowers: Katie-Laura Flowers

MUA: Cat Johnson

Millinery Boutique: Lou Lou Puchalka

Jewellery: Estella Barlett

Entertainment: Luna Tricks

DJ : Rory Hoy

Music: The Citizen Smith Band  The Four 45’s Seth Meshowitz Fold FM

Photobooth: Booth Revolution

Stationary: Lovely Cuppa

Handmade decor: Wedding in  a Tea Cup

Vintage teas & parties: Pinnies and Pearls

Lanterns: The Hanging Lantern

Get in touch

Email ceremonies@janshillito.co.uk, call 07745 385 981 or use the form below. Say hello! and join our line up of awesome couples.

Web Design SkiptonWeb Developer Skipton

Copyright 2021. All Rights Reserved