Emily Shellard and James Dawson said their vows in the gorgeous setting of Somerset’s Hestercombe Gardens
For Emily and James, romance first blossomed in the aisles of the supermarket where they both worked part time. “Emily would often struggle to open the milk dollies, so called upon her knight in shining armour – me! – to come to her rescue!” explains James. “James had an air of mystery around him, which intrigued me, and made me want to get to know him better,” says Emily. “He seemed like the perfect gentleman: funny, caring, someone you can trust – a bit like your classic Mr Darcy. He was also tall, dark and handsome, which helped!”
Fast forward 11 years and James went down on one knee by the Taj Mahal to pop the question to Emily. “The proposal was made extra special by our tour guide who arranged Champagne and a cake during our final dinner in India,” details Emily. “It was a long flight home, however, waiting to surprise my parents with the news!”
The couple organised an intimate April celebration at the beautiful Hestercombe Gardens in Somerset after they fell in love with the stunning setting. “We’re quite private people and wanted a small, quiet ceremony with family and closest friends,” explains James. Emily agrees. “I didn’t want an extravagant affair, so I chose not to have any bridesmaids, flower girls or pageboys – just James and me tying the knot in front of close friends and family.”
James’ fluid approach to timing is legendary – he turned up two hours late for the first dinner Emily ever cooked him – and early on in the relationship she realised that he’s regularly late for everything. With this in mind, she wasn’t taking any chances with the ceremony. “I told him the wedding ceremony was 30 minutes earlier to ensure he wasn’t late!”
This wedding was definitely a bridezilla-free zone. “We shared responsibility and jointly decided on all the details – having been together for many years, making joint decisions came naturally,” explains Emily. “We were fairly laid back with what we wanted and accepted any offers of help.” James’ mum, Christine, crafted 50 small felt birds to decorate the tables and collected jam jars for candle holders, Emily’s mum Julie helped to make all of the invitations and table place names and Emily’s sister-in-law, Emma, handmade the flower decorations for the wedding cake – which had a last minute change of plan. “One week before the wedding I realised it was too late due to Easter to order the sponge cakes we wanted, so had to panic buy fruit cakes instead from the local M&S!” says Emily.
Emily’s beautiful ruched dress with crystal embellishments came from Nicola Bridal in Weston-super-Mare, which she accessorised with ‘something borrowed’ pearl earrings from her mum. As befitting a wedding in a gorgeous garden, the bouquet and buttonholes from Sue at Country Garden in Clevedon looked stunning. The couple praised Sue’s great eye for detail, which even extended to advising on which type of flowers would be best avoided in order not to trigger any hayfever allergies.
Since wedding photographer Robert Eyres is a good friend of James’ from university, the choice of who to record the day was an obvious one. “His service was second to none,” says James. “We went to Hestercombe for a practice shoot to get some ideas for the big day, which really helped as it meant the best man could coordinate guests on the day. Rob took exactly what we wanted: some formal photos for the album, but also some natural shots throughout the day.” These also included some embarrassing shots of the father of the groom’s over-enthusiastic ‘dad dancing’!
On the build up to the big day, the couple became increasingly nervous. “Not because of getting married, but all the planning that goes into it,” explains Emily. “We were anxious we had missed something!” But the day went without a hitch – “it was more than perfect,” she says. “James isn’t one for public affection or giving compliments, so my favourite part of the day was when he was getting emotional and teary eyed during our vows. It’s heart-warming to know how much it meant to him – actions definitely speak louder than words.” For James, the photos show how much he loved the day. “I was like a Cheshire cat, grinning from ear-to-ear!”