'Cowley Manor made our Cotswolds wedding dreams a beautiful reality'

A sunset proposal with the perfect personalised Emma Bridgewater mug was the beginning of a plan for the most beautiful big day in the Cotswolds for a couple with a keen eye for detail and determination to make the day everything they'd dreamed of.

By Emma Luther  |  Published
Chloé Wilcox-Jones had always dreamed of having her big day at Cowley Manor on the edge of Cheltenham.

The lowdown

The happy couple: Chloé Wilcox-Jones, 28, a secondary school teacher from Evesham and Ellis Wilcox-Jones, 28, a managing cyber security consultant from Guildford, who both now live in London

Wedding date: Friday 4 August 2023

Ceremony and reception venue: Cowley Manor

Wedding theme: Classic black and white with a modern twist

The suppliers

Photographer: Lauren Juliette

Flowers: Rosie's Posies

Dress: Freda Bennet / Charlie Brear

Groom’s outfit: COS Menswear

Cake: Lola’s Cupcakes

Catering: Cowley Manor

Stationery: Rosemood

Entertainment: John Adams Music, Dukebox Discos and Waterfall Photobooth

Favours: Edinburgh Gin

Rings: Cartier

The details

When and how did you first meet?

Ellis and I both met on our first day at the University of Birmingham. I had unfortunately not been allocated halls so had ended up living in a house of eight other students who were also in the same position as me.

Chantelle, one of my new housemates, had gone to school with Ellis. On our first day she had asked if I wanted to go along with her to meet a friend of hers. I had said yes, so we headed down to Pizza Hut in Birmingham Bullring. When we arrived, Ellis was singing in the restaurant and I remember being so embarrassed that someone would act like that in public. He did pay for our taxi home though, so that helped score some brownie points.

We stayed friends for the first year, spending lots of time together in our group of friends. Only when we began living together in our second year of university did our friendship blossom into more. We’ve been together ever since.

Who popped the big question and how did they propose?

Ellis planned for us to go and stay in Brighton for a few nights during the summer of 2021 as we hadn’t been away anywhere since the Covid-19 lockdown. He didn’t tell me much about where we were staying but I knew that it was a boutique hotel near the seafront.

I’ve always loved Brighton so I was so excited to go back. I had my suspicions that Ellis may propose, but what really solidified it for me was when his friend text him the night before saying ‘Good luck tomorrow????????’.

Ellis is usually quite open and I’d never seen him pick up his phone with such speed. He knew that I’d seen the message so secretly messaged his friend asking him to message him a lie to help cover his tracks. I wasn’t quite convinced but I played along.

We spent the whole day mooching around Brighton and then when we retreated back to the hotel to get ready for dinner, Ellis asked me to marry him on our balcony in the hotel during sunset.

I am obsessed with Emma Bridgewater and Ellis presented me with a personalised mug with ‘marry me?’ written on the front. It was absolutely perfect and such a special moment for the two of us. We met our families the day after for a celebratory dinner so that we could share the moment with everyone.

How long did it take you to plan your wedding?

We began planning our wedding around six months after we got engaged. We’re both quite relaxed and didn’t want it to be an arduous, unenjoyable process.

We both sat down together and decided that we would be having a fairly large wedding, and would want all of our family and friends to be there to celebrate and have a good party.

We didn’t have a wedding planner, instead we set aside time in the evenings and at weekends to get stuff done, although at times that was quite difficult.

How important was it for you both to be legally married?

Genuinely, I don’t think it was hugely important for us to be legally married. Since being married our relationship hasn’t changed and doesn’t feel different, but it was nice to make that commitment to one another in front of our family and friends.

We felt it was a natural next step for us. I can’t lie, it was nice to be able to join our names and create a new surname for our own family to carry, although we must remember to legally change that soon!

Why did you choose your venue?

I had always had my heart set on Cowley Manor. I had seen pictures of other people getting married there and had always thought it was such a beautiful, picturesque Cotswold venue. It was a perfect distance in between our families for travelling, and allowed for us to have access to the whole venue which was something that was important to me.

I remember being a bridesmaid at a cousin's wedding when I was younger and they had had full access to their venue and it felt so special so I knew I wanted the same.

Cowley Manor was bought by The Experimental Group whilst we were planning our wedding and went through a major renovation. This meant that we were one of the first people to get married in the newly refurbished Cowley Manor — the new decor and design was even more in line with our own styles and vision for the wedding so it ended being a pretty perfect outcome!

Was there an inspiration or theme for your wedding?

I have always hated being centre of attention and therefore knew I wanted my bridesmaids to wear white on the day. I thought this would not only look chic, but also mean I wouldn’t be the only person wearing white.

Ellis did take some persuading to wear black, but did come around in the end! We sort of mistakenly fell into this theme — I knew that black and white would look nice in photographs and our wedding invites featured a black and white photo of Ellis and I from Camden market’s photobooth.

From there, we kind of just went with this theme, with the addition of brightly coloured accessories. I gave very brief instructions to our florists, just that I wanted bright summer flowers. They absolutely smashed the brief, with almost everyone commenting on our flowers before anything else after seeing our wedding photos.

Our table designs featured brightly coloured candles and candlesticks, as well as a black and white polaroid for every name place.

Did you hire a wedding planner or was it a DIY affair?

Cowley Manor was amazing at helping, advising and guiding us when planning the wedding. Emma and Matt were always on hand to answer any questions or queries that we had around the wedding or venue. We just trusted their judgement, as well as our own vision and planned the wedding ourselves with their help and our own families' help.

Ellis is meticulously organised (everything has a spreadsheet!) so this helped in keeping us on track for ensuring everything was accounted for, and I am extremely fussy so would have maybe been a Bridezilla if anyone else would have been in charge of organising anything. It worked for us to just do it ourselves!

What song did you walk down the aisle to?

I walked down the aisle to A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman as this is a film that we both really like and have watched and sung countless times together.

Leaving the ceremony, we walked out to Hold On, We’re Going Home by Drake, a song which reminds us of our time at university when we first met. John Adams sung both of these songs acoustically and they sounded beautiful on the day.

What did you have for your wedding breakfast?

Our wedding breakfast was probably something we were most excited for on the wedding day. We had already completed menu tastings with Cowley Manor and the food was insane, so we were just excited for all of our friends and family to experience it too!

We knew the veggie options had to be as good, as Ellis is a lifelong vegetarian. For starters, we had the choice of beer battered cod with tartare sauce and a pea purée or truffle polenta balls; for main we had blade of beef and butternut squash ravioli and for dessert we had a deconstructed sticky toffee pudding. All were so delicious; people still comment on the beef when they speak to us now!

What kind of cake did you go for?

Ellis and I are avid Lola’s Cupcakes fans. We always have a cake from there for our birthdays so we knew our wedding would be no exception.

We had two, two-tier cakes from Lola’s on the day, one red velvet cake (Ellis’s choice) and one lemon and raspberry (my choice). The cakes were delicious, which we knew they would be.

What was your first dance song?

Selecting a first dance song is so much harder than we imagined it would be! We spent countless hours one Saturday sat in the kitchen playing song after song deciding which one would fit.

Our preferred music genres are quite different and therefore this made the job even more challenging. However, time and time again we kept going back to the same song Can I Have This Dance? from High School Musical Three. Yes, we knew it was cheesy and I kept wondering if we really could have High School Musical as our first dance but in the end, and after speaking with friends who said it was the only song they could remember us both duetting when we thought no-one was listening, we knew it had to be that.

We were so glad we picked it, as it really encouraged so many people to join in to dance and sing with us which made the occasion so much more special!

What was your favourite part of your wedding day?

Chloé: It’s really hard to pick one! I genuinely loved it all, from getting ready with my sister, mum and bridesmaids in the morning to the wedding breakfast to the evening.

But, if I had to pick one part, I would say the evening ceremony, when all of the formal elements of the day were over and people could just let their hair down and have a dance and socialise.

I also loved the open photobooth that we had, as everyone was able to take lots of photos with one another and keep the copies as memories from the day.

Ellis: I loved seeing all of our family and friends together and socialising, it was so nice to see people we hadn’t seen for a while and introduce people who hadn’t met before. I don’t have a favourite part, rather my favourite moments were the parts of the day where I caught up with Chloé in between the big moments and socialising.

Moments like sharing a cocktail alone straight after the ceremony, or walking around the grounds to get some wedding photos before the sun went down.

Did everything go to plan?

Overall, yes. There were no major problems — just awful Cotswolds traffic which meant the registrar was roughly an hour late. But genuinely, that didn’t matter on the day as we were too caught up in the moment to feel stressed about anything.

What advice would you give anyone planning their big day?

Genuinely, I would just say to not overthink it. I remember when people would say to me ‘it’ll be the best day ever’ and I would wonder if that was really true. But honestly, it is.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and worried before the wedding, as there is a lot of pressure on ensuring the day runs smoothly and everyone enjoys it, but everyone will enjoy it, and it doesn’t feel that big of a deal when you’re actually doing it, as weird as that may sound.

Finally, have the wedding you want. Choose the food you want to eat, and the music you want to dance to, because after all, it’s a day for you and your partner to enjoy first and foremost.

Is there anything you know now that you wished you’d known before the big day?

How expensive weddings are? No, jokes aside, we were pretty well-prepared for the wedding.

Just make sure you book vendors with plenty of timing, things like hair and make-up get booked up so far in advance, so if you have your mind set on someone or something, get in touch as soon as you can to check their availability.

And finally, where did you spend your honeymoon together?

We flew out to Las Vegas two days after our wedding and spent time travelling around there and then on to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Yosemite, before returning back to Vegas before our journey home.

It was such an adventure and so much fun to spend quality time together after such a busy period of time in the lead up to the wedding.

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