The happy couple: Chris Swales, 29, a design engineer and Olivia Swales, 27, an estate agent from Grove in Oxfordshire.
Wedding date: Wednesday 27 July 2022
Ceremony and reception venue: Blackwell Grange
Videographer: Servo Creatives
Flowers: Charlton Garden Centre
Dress: Bridal Box designer Pronovias
Groom’s outfit: Marc Darcey
Catering: Blackwell Grange
Cake: Chris’s aunt and uncle
Rings: Peter Casey Jewelers
Entertainment: Nero String Quartet and Brad Matthews Music
When and how did you first meet?
We met in 2007 at Burford Secondary School and became very close friends, which continued throughout our time at school. However, in 2011, I moved to Florida with my family and our paths took completely different directions.
We remained friends but, being thousands of miles away, our lives took over and there were times when we didn’t speak for long periods, although we were always rooting for each other in the background.
Chris came to visit Florida in February 2018 and our spark grew stronger and stronger but we had the long distance difficulty of an ocean keeping us apart.
In October 2018, due to visa reasons, I unexpectedly had to temporarily move back to England while I sorted my visa out.
Once we were in the same country again, Chris and I decided to take the leap and make a real go of our blossoming relationship. This was four years ago and now we’re married!
It’s been an incredible journey and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Who popped the big question and how did they propose?
Chris popped the question on Christmas evening 2021.
Over the past few years we have taken the same photo in front of a 25ft Christmas tree at the Shingle Creek Hotel in Florida, but this time, as we went to recreate our favourite photo, Chris got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.
Apart from my dad, my family had no idea, so it was a wonderful surprise for us all.
How long did it take you to plan your wedding?
Just 13 weeks!
Why did you choose your venue?
Due to family circumstances, we decided to get married quicker than we first intended and the venue was first on the to do list.
From the moment we arrived at Blackwell Grange, we both knew it was the venue for us. It’s absolutely stunning and completely took our breath away.
During our tour, we entered into the Thatch Barn and as Harriet opened the door, the string quartet began to play Beauty and the Beast. We looked at each other with tears running down our faces and, from there, there was no other choice but Blackwell.
The fantastic staff was another reason why we chose Blackwell. They were all so friendly, helpful and answered our hundreds of questions with reassurance. They put our minds at ease and made the whole process smooth sailing.
They went above and beyond to make sure we were happy and they truly made our wedding absolutely perfect. Blackwell Grange also has beautiful onsite accommodation which was a massive bonus for us.
Did you hire a wedding planner or was it a DIY affair?
It was a full DIY affair, from handmade flower arches, painting bottle lights for the aisle and table lanterns to designing all of our own signs. Everything we did felt really personal, which made our day that even more special.
What song did you walk down the aisle to?
Elvis Presley's 'Can’t Help Falling In Love' performed by Nero String Quartet.
What did you have for your wedding breakfast?
We decided to have a two-course meal for our wedding breakfast. The main course was a chicken and braised ham pie, creamed leeks, peas and tarragon with roasted seasonal vegetables and salt and rosemary potatoes.
Our vegetarian option was a roasted vegetable lasagne with rich creamy cheese sauce.
For dessert we chose the Eton mess which was beautifully presented and delicious.
All of our guests said how great the food, presentation and staff were during the meal.
In the evening, we had wood-fired pizza’s and it was one of the biggest compliments of our wedding. Our guests absolutely loved the pizza and what made it even better is that there was absolutely no food waste.
What kind of cake did you go for?
Luckily Chris’s uncle used to be a chef and catering manager, so together with Chris’s aunt, they generously made us a beautiful three-tier chocolate cake. The first layer was chocolate orange, the second was white chocolate and raspberry ganache and the third layer was Baileys. It was delicious and we are so thankful for all of their hard work.
What was your first dance song?
'Fade Away' by Six60 which was performed live acoustically by Brad Matthews.
What was your favourite part of your wedding day?
Chris: 'I loved watching Olivia walk down the aisle.'
Olivia: 'It was so special to bring all of our friends and family together to celebrate with them.'
Did everything go to plan?
Despite all of our efforts unfortunately Chris’s dad wasn’t well enough to attend the wedding however the day went seamlessly and thankfully he was able to watch on FaceTime. It was everything we had dreamed of and more and we wish we could do it all over again.
What advice would you give anyone planning their big day?
Don’t overthink decisions! You don’t need years to plan your special day, whatever you choose will be perfect. Take a moment after the ceremony for the both of you to digest and be with each other, the day goes by so quickly and seems like a blur and those moments you spend together you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
We would also highly recommend hiring a videographer. While photos are beautiful, a video can transport you back, so you can experience it all over again. You miss so much of your own wedding and our video captured our day perfectly.
Is there anything you know now that you wished you’d known before the big day?
No, the staff at Blackwell Grange were on top of everything and made our day flawless.
And finally, where did you spend your honeymoon together?
We are still planning our honeymoon and have decided to split it into a hot and cold honeymoon. For the first part of our trip we will be going to Canada and we are looking into St Lucia for the summer.