Sunday 16 June 2019

Real wedding: A colourful African-themed party at Elmore Court

A spectacular engagement in Kenya provided inspiration for Victoria Holdsworth and James Erskine's African-themed summer wedding at Elmore Court – with Masai dancers, colourful favours and a gift list in aid of the rhinos at Borana Conservancy.

The lowdown

The happy couple: Victoria Holdsworth, 34, a luxury private travel agent from London, and James Erskine, 33, a project manager for a heating company from Cambridge, who both now live in Churchdown.
Wedding date: Friday 19 June 2015
Ceremony and reception venue: Elmore Court
Wedding theme: ‘African Bicycle’


The suppliers

Photographer: Andy Doane from Flutterby Weddings
Videographer: Filmmaker Mike Erskine
Flowers: The Great British Florist
Dress: The Colette gown by So Sassi by Sassi Holford from Cotswold Bride
Bridesmaid dresses: Navy blue Priya Spot dress with bespoke ribbon detail and underskirts from Hobbs
Groom’s outfit: A three-piece blue suit from Moss Bros
Cake: Ruth Makes
Catering: Elmore Court
Transport: Swanbrook Transport for guests, a Land Rover Series 3 for the groom, and a Jaguar XKR for the bride.
Stationery: Sarah North
Entertainment: The Masai Cultural Arts Group
Favours: Kenyan Kikoys, shipped from Shakir Malindi in Kenya
Hair and beauty: Jennifer Davies Weddings
Rings including engagement ring: Andrew Scott, Cheltenham


The details

When and how did you first meet?

The happy couple were introduced at a mutual friend’s 30th birthday barbecue in Oxford in 2011.

Who popped the big question and how did they propose?

When Victoria and James met and started dating, Victoria promised James that for every year of his 30s he would celebrate his birthday in a different country. On his 30th they were camping in the desert in Dubai, on his 31st city touring in Barcelona, on his 32nd in Cape Town and on the 33rd in Uganda visiting the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

It was during this 33rd birthday trip that they also had the good fortune to fly to Kenya, and to the Lewa and Borana Reserves. At Borana Lodge driving through the reserve they discovered the famous ‘pride rock’ – the actual rock that inspired The Lion King.

James felt that this might be the perfect place for a proposal and set about planning this by visiting the gift shop and choosing a locally-carved silver ring ready for the proposal. During a hike to the rock, the rain started to form on the horizon, however they were determined to continue to the top.

How long did it take you to plan your wedding?

We planned the wedding in just six months.

Why did you choose Elmore Court?

We loved the combination of the grand fronted old building with the eco-friendly Gillyflower, we also met the team and felt that they would be able to pull a fun wedding together in six months!

Was there an inspiration or theme for your wedding?

Yes, Borana in Kenya, and African wildlife and protecting endangered rhinos in particular, was a key focus for the theme of the wedding. We wanted to bring something cultural into the day to follow on from the story of our engagement. We also both love to go biking so decided to also bring our hobby into the day.

What made you choose Flutterby Wedding Photography?

Andy is a local photographer and we did a trial engagement shoot with him, he was fun and made us relax in front of the camera.

How did your wedding photographer capture your big day memories?

He came to the hotel where Victoria was getting ready, he went to the house where James was preparing, he was involved in the planning of the day and we had long meetings to talk him through the ‘secrets’ of the day – as we wanted our guests to have some surprises. Andy was the only person who knew everything about our wedding day.

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

We did it all ourselves.

Did you make, design or create anything yourself?

The invitations were inspired by us but created by Sarah North, who created the first African animal template that we then used for invitations, table plans, table names and even the cake. We gave the vectors from the invitation to the cake designer and asked her to re-create the designs on the cake too.

Tell us about the wedding dress

Victoria remembers: ‘I tried the Colette dress on in its natural form and it fitted perfectly, made me feel really elegant, however it just wasn’t detailed enough, so the great team at Cotswold Bride tucked a piece of lace under the sheer fabric on the bodice, and immediately I was inspired. We then talked about sparkle and in the end we sewed sequins to the lace so that when I turned I sparkled, subtle but pretty. I was delighted with the dress and the seamstress who made it fit perfectly.’

What did the groom wear?

A three-piece blue suit, blue and yellow spotted tie, blue and yellow spotted socks, finished with a blue and yellow handkerchief.

Did you incorporate any special family details or heirlooms, for example?

Not specifically, although Victoria’s 93-year-old grandfather managed to make the day which was really very special.

Did you have something old, new, borrowed and blue?

The old was Popsi, my grandfather, the new was my dress, the borrowed was my mother’s diamond bracelet, and my navy blue shoes were my new,’ explains Victoria.

What song did you walk down the aisle to?

‘I Giorni’ by Ludovico Einaudi.

Did you have any special readings during the service?

We had two readings; ‘Us Two’ by A. A. Milne and the lyrics to the Dave Matthews Band song ‘You & Me’.

What did you have for your wedding breakfast?

For starters we had sharing platters of cold meats, cheeses, olives and sundried tomato. Then for the main, butter roasted Cotswold chicken supreme served with confit onions, baby carrots, spinach, Anna potatoes and a chasseur sauce. For dessert we had a petit café gourmand, consisting of a mini citron cheesecake, a chocolate torte with cherry compote and an Espressotini shot, as a tribute to our two years in France living together.

What kind of cake did you go for?

A three-tiered cake; two tiers were chocolate sponge filled with salted caramel butter cream with one tier of Victoria sponge with white chocolate butter cream. It was iced all over and decorated with the silhouette of African animals and bicycles and personalised monkey cake toppers.

What was your first dance song?

The acoustic version of Avicci’s ‘Addicted To You’ sung live by our friend Jamie Walker. We had dance lessons with Anna Ludford Dance in Cheltenham just to get a few steps together – it really helped and we felt confident just for a short few moves around the dance floor.

What was your favourite part of your wedding day?

There were many moments we both loved. We just relaxed and enjoyed the whole day; having all our friends and family around us was great fun. A couple of standout moments were Victoria’s speedy arrival in the Jag causing quite the stir among the guests! And James’ father trying to copy one of the African dancers by bouncing on his bottom across the dance floor!

Did everything go to plan?

Absolutely perfectly, Elmore was amazing in making everything run smoothly.

What advice would you give anyone planning their big day?

Have an operational spreadsheet! Victoria had a spreadsheet from the day before the wedding right up until the end of the day, every usher and bridesmaid had a copy, so everyone knew what was meant to happen when, which made for a stress-free wedding.

Also, do what you want, take inspiration from others, don’t be afraid to say no to things, trust the venue they know what they are doing and just enjoy it.

Where did you spend your honeymoon together?

We went to Norway for a week. James arranged the honeymoon as a surprise for Victoria and announced it in his speech. We flew into Oslo, did some cycling, sea kayaking, glacier hiking, drove 1,200km and flew out of Bergen. Norway’s fjords, mountains and way of life are simply beautiful.

And finally, is there anything you know now that you wished you’d known before the big day?

No, but don’t treat it as THE best day of your life. It should be one of the most memorable, however we hope to enjoy many other great days together.


If Victoria and James’ special day has inspired you to tie the knot at the stunning venue, see Elmore Court for more details.

For more information about the couple’s photographer see Flutterby Wedding Photography or call 07833 252176.

© SoGlos
Monday 07 September 2015

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