Garden filled with small children!

Preparations began on Thursday with Marquee Elegance putting up the marquee, working late to get it finished as the weather was dreadful.  They kindly put down a wooden floor as the grass was so wet - a very welcome change from the drought.  Marquee Elegance have their offices in Shillingstone so it was great to have them here. ( )

In the evening the brides came to check everything was correct and to get a final feel of the gardens before decorating the next day.

This was very much a family and friend’s wedding and many arrived on Friday to help set up.  The brides had tried to get all the suppliers locally and to have a relaxed, festival feel to their celebrations as you can see from the table decorations!  They left the inside of the marquee plain, instead hanging coloured lanterns from the roof and putting multi-coloured bunting round the sides, inside and out.

Great trouble had been taken with the layout and decoration of the garden as well.  Haybales arrived from Dorset Party Hire and were laid out in conversation groups on both lawns and decorated jam jars, containing battery operated tea lights were scattered around, ready to be lit on Saturday night.  The brides had a definite vision of what they wanted everything to look like.  

( Dorset Party Hire - )

Both Southern Bars - - and Andrew from Meeks Catering - - came on Friday, to set up ready for the next day.  Southern Bars had chosen to bring their rustic wooden bar to fit in with the relaxed theme.

More action was taking place in the old playground where Honeybells, from Blandford, were putting up bell tents for the campers the following night - - these were later joined by a few private tents.

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Saturday dawned and a couple of the Brides' friends arrived to set out the chairs in front of the gazebo.  Each seat had a tube of bubbles on it to blow at the end of the celebration.  A Scottish mist came in and discussion took place as to whether to turn over the padded seats to keep them dry but luckily it blew over and it was overcast but fine and warm for the rest of the day.

Ropes of pears and white paper bunting had been strung over the gazebo and more little jam jars placed outside.

A family friend, Sweet Pea Florists, from Blandford, came with a wonderful array of pink and cream flowers to arrange in the antique bottles placed on each table.  She also left a box of buttonholes in the same colours. The bottles had been collected over the previous year and looked perfect. ( / 07526732855) Tables were marked with old singles and Newspaper hearts were scattered over the cloths.

The most beautiful wedding cake was assembled in the marquee, made by a cousin of one of the brides.  It looked amazing and was decorated with fresh berries and sugar flowers that she had handmade herself.

At about 1.45 a VW van arrived containing five adult bridesmaids looking so elegant in oyster pink dresses, three lovely flower girls in oyster pink lace dresses with their hair beautifully braided and three pages, the latter in grey shorts with braces over white shirts and bow ties. With the bridal VW van going back to collect one bride, we rushed the other one in to see the registrars.  Paperwork safely out of the way, she returned to garden so that she would not see the other bride arrived.  Both brides were being given away by their fathers making it much more difficult to keep them apart! 

The VW returned carrying the second bride in a full wedding dress - she looked absolutely stunning.

Photographs were taken and then she went into the dining room to do her paperwork. 

Safely out of the way, number one had photographs taken on the front door steps, looking very smart in grey trousers, waistcoat and a pink flowery tie.  As the music began to play she walked with her father and her attendants to the gazebo. 

Bride number two then followed with her entourage - the dress had successfully remained a secret - and the ceremony began.

Ceremony over, more formal and informal photographs were taken on the lawn, and a group one from an upstairs window of the house.  All the fantastic photographs of the brides and their guests were taken by Rachel Brewer, a family friend. Those marked with a dot are in house.

The lawns seemed to erupt with small children!  The Brides had supplied huge amounts of lawn games and the children played with these or just rushed around exploring the gardens.  It was not long before they discovered the tractor and many a parent was dragged off to keep and eye on them. Later in the evening they discovered the props for the photo-booth and appeared in a tiara or fought with huge inflatable hammers.

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The brides made a formal entry into the Marquee where Andrew Meeks and his team from Gillingham had laid out a barbeque feast - one guest said the Caesar Salad was just amazing.  It smelt wonderful, though the smoke from the barbeque threatened at one point to envelope the gazebo during the wedding.  Luckily the wind changed. They also took all these wonderful pictures of their food plus a lovely one of the house and the gazebo.

Food and speeches finished, the cake was cut. More photographs were then taken in the garden.  The brides were keen to have some on the boat in the playground and very bravely, in full wedding kit, they climbed to the bow to strike a Titanic pose.

Soon it was time for the band, The Royal T's, to put in an appearance. They played some wonderful music, from all eras and the dance floor was packed until midnight. (The Royal T's - )

A buffet had been laid on by one of the brides for the evening when another seventy or so guests arrived.

The brides spent the night in our Indian Bell Tent in the walled garden.  Their friends did the most incredible clear up first thing the next morning and the brides were woken by breakfast in bed at 11 am!

It was a truly memorable weekend and a tremendous feat of organisation and calm. On Sunday we found an extra memory on the grass behind the roses - the children had created an amazing and beautiful nest from petals and leaves!


The brides went on to post a wonderful tribute to Shillingstone on our facebook page - thank you.

“5 stars isn't enough for this beautiful setting. Sir Michael and Lady Caroline Salt made our wedding set up so easy and relaxed. They went above and beyond for us and are such lovely people. We celebrated our wedding on Saturday 18.08.18 and everything went so smoothly and exactly as we had wanted. The house and grounds are absolutely stunning and with the extra option of camping for our guests, it just made it so much more relaxing. Thank you so much for allowing us to share your beautiful home on our wedding day xxx!




Ceremony in the dining room

The weather was glorious, very hot and with incredible blue skies as the team from Affordable Marquees - - put up our second Petal Marquee of the year.  They are more complicated that the usual pole marquees and take two days to complete. The roses were in full flower and the bed where our glorious chestnut had stood is beginning to look established.

Thursday brought the first of the working parties with the bride’s mother spending hours frothing up the pompoms that they had borrowed from our supplies.  The bride and her friends lined up the paper lanterns ready for Sean from Affordable to hang from the roof of the marquee.

The bride had wanted a gentle lead up to the wedding so had engaged a wedding designer to pull everything together on the Saturday so Friday was not as hectic as usual.  The bride and groom arranged a table for good luck cards and a ladder shelf in the entrance of the tent with information about seating etc. 

Our photo-booth frame went in one corner along with a wonderful selection of props and hats for their guests to pose with.

Dinah from Blooming Hill Plants arrived with the most amazing collection of cut flowers -  She took incredible care arranging these in the bottles that the bride and groom had collected and did not leave until late.  She returned the next day with the buttonholes for the groom etc.

Saturday brought a “Mr and Mrs” in huge lit up letters, which were arranged along one side of the marquee – – who also produce photobooths of every shape and description.

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Southern Bars arrived and set up a very impressive wooden bar - and the DJ arranged his equipment in the corner by the dancefloor.

Rachel from Love by Design laid the tables, brought the flowers from their cool in the porch of the house and put up the pompoms in clusters round the marquee.  Her company can arrange all design aspects of your wedding if you wish.

The wedding cake took the form of cupcakes and chocolate brownies, with a small cake for cutting.  They were made by a family friend. Rachel and her helper laid these out in vintage crates provided by the couple and they looked wonderful.



Dorset Porkers set up their gazebo outside the marquee ready for their free-range Hog Roast.  They also provided the loos!  -

The groom and groomsmen checked that all was in place, looking incredible smart in full kilt dress, complete with sgian dubhs in their socks.  None of them had ever worn a kilt before but said they were really comfortable – if hot! The groom's father had brought over his Morgan for the his son to arrive in.  


The wedding, which was an intimate gathering, was to take place in the dining room and the bride wanted to enter through the dining room doors so we had put daisy trees in place by the steps.


The bride arrived in a very smart Rolls Royce, courtesy of the firm, as she works for them - proceeded by two totally non wedding vehicles which had to be hastily parked out of the way!  She looked so beautiful, in the simplest but superbly cut dress with a long train. Her three bridesmaids were in matching blue dresses.

Photographs taken by Paul and Mike from - they took all the fantastic photographs not marked with a spot which are in house.

The sun shone as the couple left the dining room by the steps onto the lawn.

Further guests arrived after the ceremony and were greeted with music from Little Thoughts an acoustic duo who played until everyone entered the marquee for the wedding breakfast. (

Hog roast consumed and speeches finished the guests wandered on the lawns and more photographs were taken.  It was another baking day and groups of guests settled in the shade of the house or used the new outside furniture provided by Affordable Marquees.

Later, as darkness fell, the DJ tuned up and dancing began with the party continuing until midnight.  Several of the guests continued to wear the props from the photobooth!

The couple had not taken the glamping area so left to spend the night at the Crown in Marnhull but before they left Paul and Mike took this amazing photograph of them under the great oak in the field using large flash lights.




Perfect Organisation!

The bride for this wedding was enormously organised - "Efficiency is the key! The more organised it all is, the more relaxed I am!" - she sent in her email when I congratulated her.  And it certainly worked.

The marquee went up on the Wednesday as it was very big.  It came through a new provider to Shillingstone, Maidmans Marquees from Verwood – / 07963375618. They were the first company to provide hard hats for their team. 

The groom came over to see that everything was in the correct place.

On Thursday the bride’s parents came over to check how things were progressing and to choose their pitch for the bell tent that they had ordered for the weekend from Dorset Bell Tents –

Friday brought an army of relations, groomsmen and bridesmaids to set out the haybales that had been organised for seating outside, laying tables and putting decorations in place.

The groom is very keen on his bands and the tables were all called after different groups.


The sound system was set up and luckily tested as there was interference from the generator – Kaleidoscope Sound and Light Systems - which was used for the speeches and later by a friend who organised the disco. -

Flowers were arranged by New Street Flowers from Poole to frame the entrance to the gazebo ready for the ceremony the next day – beautiful huge peonies and hydrangeas which looked amazing.  They also provided the flower arrangements for the tables, bouquets and buttonholes. Phone: 01202 674889/ (The gazebo photographs were taken the next day with guest queuing for food in the background)

Whilst this was happening, a group of groomsmen were trying to put up a screen to show the pictures the chief bridesmaid had arranged for the next day.  I wish I had had a mobile with me and could have videoed the proceedings!

A bar was set up in an alcove off the marquee by Perfect Wedding Day Services – they can cover all wedding services if you want - 01305 789166/

Saturday and not a cloud in the sky.  The groom and his friends arrived to check that everything was in place.  They looked extremely smart but extremely hot as they had chosen to wear tweed three-piece suits to go with the country theme of the wedding, not thinking for a moment that they would have a heatwave. Most of them, including the groom,  changed into shorts as soon as the ceremony was over!


The country theme continued with welly boots filled with flowers in front of the gazebo and the couple’s dog arriving in time for the photographs.

Barbara Hooper from String4u - 01202 624554/  – set up on the dance floor of the marquee ready to play for the ceremony.  They have an extensive play-list and the selection they play is chosen by the client.


Guests began to arrive about 12.00 and took their places in the marquee or mingled on the lawn.  Some went to set up their tents in the camping ground.

The "Festicole" had started!



The bride, who looked stunning in a very simple but very beautiful dress with a long train, went into the house to meet the Registrars where photographs were been taken of her and her bevy of bridesmaids on the steps of the house -four adults and four children.

She had chosen to come out of the house through the front door and then progress with her father under the catalpa tree and down the full length of the marquee before meeting her groom at the gazebo.


Ceremony over guests were invited to mingle on the lawns with a drink whilst amazing photographs were taken both formal and informal by Andrew Sibley Photographer - He took all the photographs not marked with a dot which are in house. Mobile 07593843359

The couple had also chosen to use a Videographer,  Daniel Henry.  Earlier in the morning, I had heard a buzzing sound and seen someone lurking in the field.  On challenging him, I found it was part of the Videographer team with a drone taking really beautiful film of the house!  - Daniel Henry on Vimeo/ 07779625639

Food was a little delayed as the Pizza company had hit traffic in their journey from Watford.  Once here they quickly set up shop and delicious pizzas were soon pouring out of the oven set in the front of a “Mini” car.  The home team had a taste and they were deemed delicious.  They also provided salads etc.  - Soho Pizza – Kris Read - E-mail: / Call: Kris on 07917822227 /

More photographs of the bride and groom were taken in the gardens and guests tried out the lawn games and explored the grounds. 

At 6pm the reception guests began to arrive and Jack and a Box started to play.  Jack & A Box is a Duo, Jack English and Ben Court, based in North Dorset, who play a wide range of covers from Johnny Cash through to Mumford & Sons. -  They were excellent and had our family jiving in the walled garden as we picked the vegetables.  The first of some amazing music. 


More food in the shape of a Hog Roast appeared – Ben has been to Shillingstone several times before - Hog Roast BBQ/01202 421760 /  - Jack and a Box played a second before leaving.

Midlife Crisis took over for the first dance.  More music right up our street! Leuan, Glyn, Lee and Paul specialise in 50/60/70s music and the dance floor was packed.  Leuan - 07971 007431 / Glyn - 07855 258422 /


10.30 Jack Harlow, a friend, played for half an hour before a disco took over until midnight when guests wended their way to their tents.  The end of a wonderful, beautifully organised day.  The bride and groom spent their wedding night in our bell tent in the walled garden.

First wedding of the Summer

Our first wedding of the summer brought the new Petal Marquee from Affordable Marquees -  The bridal couple had chosen to put this up in the field facing the house.  It looked wonderful despite the dark skies and showers of rain.


Rain and thunderstorms were forecast so Sean from Affordable Marquees put up an extra cover in front of the gazebo where the ceremony was due to take place.

On Friday friends and relations arrived to decorate and put everything in place.  The couple had ordered an extra large marquee with sofas at one end so that IF it rained everyone would be comfortable

Large coloured paper balls had been hung by the marquee company from the ceiling. 

Flowers from Martha and the Meadow were arranged in a selection of glass jars and bottles ready for the tables.  These and the decorations for the Gazebo were hired from Dawn Morley-Norris of Winterborne Vintage (07869136939 | 01305 889656)

The couple had borrowed our Photo booth frame and provided props and a camera.  This proved very popular on Saturday evening.

The tables were named after cities of the world.  The tags on the tables collapsed overnight but were quickly revived by being ironed in the house on Saturday morning!

Guests had a photograph of themselves on their places, along with a little box of sweets decorated to look like a suitcase. Children had the added bonus of a special colouring book.

A post box was provided for wishes of good luck and a bar set up in the corner. Flip flops appeared in a box for sore feet and an umbrella stand was positioned by the entrance in case of rain.

A huge amount of thought and preparation had gone on over the months prior to the wedding - decorations for the tent and tables etc  - which made the atmosphere on Friday seem remarkably stress free and fun.

The gazebo was festooned in silk ivy by the groom's parents who added pink pots of flowers to the "bird cages" and along the front. (bird cages also provided by Winterborne Vintage)

With everything in place, the bride and her bridesmaids made their way back to the Old Forge, Fontmell Magna. They had stayed here the night before in a range of accommodation - Cottage, Shepard's' huts, old Forge and a Gypsy Caravan. The party gave the B & B rave reviews. (

Saturday dawned and a completely different forecast met our eyes.  Wall to wall sunshine! 

The caterers - Flaming Peaches - - finished laying the tables and brought over the flowers from the cool of the house porch. 

The most beautiful three tier wedding cake arrived with each layer a different flavour.  This was finished off with real flowers to match those on the tables. ( Lynne Hassini Wedding Cakes:

The groom and friends arrived first to check arrangements, then the cars arrived with the bridesmaids, looking very elegant in matching lilac dresses and the bride accompanied by her mother, who was giving her away.  The bride looked stunning in an off the shoulder dress of cream lace.  They all entered the house by the front door, passing the ancestors also dressed for the day. They all carried bunches of flowers in bright colours, again made by Emma from Martha and the Meadow.  

Official papers finished, they made their way down the dining room steps over the lawns to the gazebo.

With such glorious weather, the couple were able to marry outside and their guests sit under the marquee for shade rather than the feared downpour.

After the ceremony, the guests gathered on the lawn for canapes served from an old fashioned VW van - again the caterers Flaming Peaches.  They looked delicious! 

Nostagia Steel Band from London set up on the lawn and serenaded the party whilst they had their canapes.  The perfect sound for such wonderful weather.  ( Lionel McCalman - /

Official photographs were taken along with some lovely relaxed informal ones.  Adrian Neal from the Studio Without Walls took these and all the  amazing photographs not showing a dot which are in house - 

The wedding breakfast followed - a sit down meal, also provided by Flaming Peaches.  Non stop laughter drifted out of the tent.

Children began to sneak out to play cricket or one of the other lawn games set out by the groom.  With speeches finished, adult guests joined in with much joking and laughing. Even the bride was persuaded to take part.  At some point the ball obviously disappeared into the bushes.

More delicious food by Flaming Peaches arrived for the evening, again served from the van or circulated by waiters.  


The evening band arrived - again from London - Motown Gold/ /08002300889 - played some fantastic music and the dance floor was packed.  They also provided disco music during their breaks. 

11 pm brought the thunderstorm we had all been expecting.  Sheet lightening lit the sky and rain came down in buckets.  The party in the tent did not miss a beat! The music finished at midnight but it was quite a lot later before the campers made their way to their tents. 


We had one Bell Tent put up by Dorset Bell Tents and ordered by one of the guests. but otherwise it was private tents which filled the tenting lawn.

The Bride and Groom spent the night in our Indian Bell tent.  The end of an amazing day, blessed with the most amazing weather.  A day filled with laughter and fun.

Umbrellas had been provided but were hardly used and these were kindly donated to us for future weddings here.










First Winter Wedding Ceremony


January 20th brought our first Winter Wedding Ceremony to Shillingstone House.

It took place in the Dining Room with a blazing fire which gave a wonderful warm atmosphere to a cold wet day.  It was a morning celebration as the party were going on afterwards to the Tickled Pig in Wimborne for lunch. (  Tel: 01202-886-778 )

The bride and groom came the day before to arrange flowers and fairy lights to supplement to the storm lanterns that we had placed round the room.  

As it was a small party the guests were able to use our wonderfully aged dining room chairs.

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Friends and family were greeted by drifts of snowdrops as they came up the drive and then by pots of Christmas Roses in pots on the steps of the house.


The bride looking stunning in a beautiful off the shoulder dress, was escorted down the aisle by her father. She was followed by her lovely step-daughter-to-be proudly carrying her long train.

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Guests retired to the hall to toast the bridal couple with champagne and photographs were taken there and on the stairs.  The bride and groom were showed with confetti inside as it was too wet outside before driving off to lunch in a vintage Land Rover.

It had been a truly beautiful day.