Tracey and Aaron met at a 30th birthday party where her sister and a friend of Aaron's, later to become his groomswoman, conspired together to get them chatting. They ended up talking all night and went on their first date a week later. "I fell for Aaron's sense of humour and more than seven years on, we still constantly make each other laugh," she reveals.
Aaron proposed shortly after midnight on New Year's Eve 2018. "We were at a black-tie event in Oxford Street Southampton with friends and family when Aaron got down on one knee in the middle of the dance floor," remembers Tracey. "I always thought I'd know when it was about to happen as Aaron is terrible at keeping secrets, but I didn't suspect a thing. I was still in a daze when people started congratulating us!"
Audleys Wood Hotel in Basingstoke ticked all the boxes for their romantic rustic theme. "It had a great sense of history with a lovely English country feeland as soon as we saw it we fell in love with the place straight away," recalls Tracey. "The ceremony room in the conservatory felt like a chapel with lots of natural light. A long garden path led down to the outdoor pavilion, which was what really sold it to us. We wanted to have the wedding breakfast and evening reception somewhere private, away from the main hotel and the pavilion was perfect. Surrounded by trees with beautiful lighting inside and out,it created a wonderful atmosphere. The hotel even has its own resident Guinea fowl Dave and Davina who never leave each other's side!"
They set the date for 7th September in memory of Aaron's nan as it was her birthday. "She passed away a couple of years ago and Aaron was very close to her. As my gift on the wedding morning, I arranged for the best man to give him one of his nan's brooches in the morning with a note saying, 'so she can be with you every step of the way'. He kept it close to his heart, in his inside jacket pocket all day."
Tracey wore a classic ballgown by Sincerity with a tiara and a full-length Bianco Starfire veil with Swarovski crystals. "I wasn't looking for a particular style as I wanted to be open-minded, but my dress really stood out. It had beautiful sparkling detail on the bodice and I accessorised with pearl earrings and a bracelet."
Aaron opted for a traditional-style grey Cavani Porto three-piece and his groomsmen wore light grey Cavani Reegan suits. They all had dusky pink handmade ties and pocket squares to complement the bridesmaids' maxi dresses and Tracey's nieces looked pretty in matching white lace flowergirl dresses with pink ribbon belts. The bouquets were made from dried flowers to go with the rustic theme, including lavender, dusky pink roses, delphiniums, ears of wheat and oats, finished with hessian ribbon.
As a keen fan and novice violin player herself, Tracey had her heart set on having a violinist playing as she walked down the aisle. "We wanted someone who stood out and Joel Grainger did exactly that," she enthuses."He plays the violin using a loop pedal and beat boxing and performed at the ceremony and in the gazebo during the drinks reception while canapés were being served on the lawn. We also had some garden games, including an archery set, to keep our guests entertained."
With the help of family and friends, Tracey was able to put her own personal stamp on the reception and decorate the pavilion the night before. "We were all able to get creative and it was so much fun," she recalls. The tables were dressed with hessian runners, wooden log slices and confetti with artificial soft pink and lavender flowers for the centrepieces and garlands. "I wanted to create a romantic feel, so I added plenty of candles and scattered real lavender seeds on the tables,"adds Tracey.
The favours were personalised tea lights and packets of wildflower seeds, along with laser-cut wooden place names and help-yourself jars of traditional sweets.Tracey's bridesmaid Stacey made their three-tier cake which went down a treat with the evening barbecue.
"Our master of ceremonies is also a good friend of ours and he did a great job helping to make the day run smoothly," says Tracey. For the evening entertainment they had a magician and disco. "The DJs played all the music we wanted and had a great lighting rig and sound system. We had a mix of hip hop, pop, 80's hits,dance and indie numbers which got everyone on the dancefloor. Two of our ushers and Aaron had their own sets too. For the last song of the night we requested Fix You by Coldplay and while Aaron and I danced our guests formed a circle around us and sang along. It was like something from a film and we'll never forget it."