A Summer Wedding in the English Countryside

The founders of Pacific Northwest design brand Grain curate their dream nuptial celebrations in a quaint Cotswolds town

Historic limestone structures abound in the English market town of Chipping Campden. Among them: the medieval church of St. James', and Landmark Trust houses, which are available for rent.
Historic limestone structures abound in the English market town of Chipping Campden. Among them: the medieval church of St. James', and Landmark Trust houses, which are available for rent.

Nearly 10 years ago, Chelsea Green and James Minola, both students at the Rhode Island School of Design, signed up for a winter semester class in Guatemala that changed their lives forever. They met, discovered that they had several things in common (a Southern California upbringing; families that resided a mere six miles apart near Seattle; and a shared major, industrial design), and started dating not long after. Their courtship lead to the launch of Grain, a sustainability-focused design business based on Washington’s Bainbridge Island, and a proposal in 2012, at Manhattan’s Morgan Library after their collaborative designs were spotlighted as part of New York Design Week. “I was so surprised and excited and exhausted. I was really feeling all the feelings,” Chelsea says.

A Summer Wedding in the English Countryside
Chelsea and James Minola prepping for their big day in English finery (Alice Temperley and Paul Smith).
Chelsea and James Minola prepping for their big day in English finery (Alice Temperley and Paul Smith).

When it came time to choose a wedding location, Chelsea’s mind wandered to England’s Chipping Campden—a historic market town in the Cotswolds, 90 miles northwest of London—where she spent time as a child visiting her paternal grandparents. “When I told my mom, she started crying and said, ‘That’s the first place I took you when you were a baby. Let’s figure out how to do it,’” recalls Chelsea. “I didn’t have a global wedding in mind when I got engaged, but I knew we had to make it happen.”

The couple’s background as designers came into play during the process. “I took it on like [it was] a work project,” says Chelsea. Because the planning had to take place from overseas, she created detailed mood boards for all of her vendors, many of whom she didn’t have the chance to meet before the wedding. “[Organizing details from a distance] was actually good,” says Chelsea, “because there’s only a certain amount of time you should fuss over this stuff. When I showed up, maybe [the decor elements] weren’t exactly what I had in mind—but they were beautiful and they were there and it was done.”

A Summer Wedding in the English Countryside
A Summer Wedding in the English Countryside

Keeping the focus on the picturesque event locations—the medieval St. James’ church for the ceremony and a beautifully rustic barn at Mickleton Hills Farm for the reception—and using locally sourced materials were high priorities. “Chipping Campden is such a magical place. We just had to try not to distract from what was already there,” says Chelsea, who described her wedding aesthetic as “relaxed English country.” She encouraged her florist to use gathered wildflowers and foliage from hedgerows for the arrangements. And because many of their guests were visiting the Cotswolds for the first time, the couple requested a menu that drew on regional ingredients, including Gloucester Old Spot pork and Bibury trout.  

Local wildflowers and foliage made up the arrangements.
Local wildflowers and foliage made up the arrangements.
The ceremony took place on a sun-dappled summer afternoon.
The ceremony took place on a sun-dappled summer afternoon.

On the day of the wedding, Chelsea, who was staying at a Landmark Trust house just steps from St. James’, got ready to the sounds of church bells ringing, which she recalls as one of her fondest memories. She wore a kaftan-style Alice Temperley gown and a crown of flowers, which also served to keep her veil—a vintage Italian style borrowed from a close friend’s mother—in place. James, sticking with the English theme, donned a Paul Smith suit. The couple left the afternoon ceremony, which took place on an uncommonly warm and sunny day, to guest showering them with flower petals.

FROM TOP The couple exited to flower petals strewn by their guests. The dinner tables were lit by candles.
FROM TOP The couple exited to flower petals strewn by their guests. The dinner tables were lit by candles.

For the reception dinner, two long parallel tables, lit with plentiful candles, sat beneath draped garlands of hand-harvested foliage. The couple opted for local summer pudding with crème fraiche for dessert, rather than a traditional wedding cake, and followed the dinner with dancing—their first song was Johnny Cash and June Carter’s If I Were a Carpenter. “I love the line, ‘I gave you my onliness. Give me your tomorrow,’” says Chelsea. Another of the bride’s favorite moments came at the end of the evening as the party of 72 started to dwindle. The remaining guests grabbed the rest of the champagne bottles and a huge basket of cheese for the ride back to town—a fitting ending to the thoughtful yet unfussy wedding that James and Chelsea had planned together.

A Summer Wedding in the English Countryside
Regional ingredients, from Bibury trout to Gloucestor Old Spot pork, made up the couple's menu.
Regional ingredients, from Bibury trout to Gloucestor Old Spot pork, made up the couple's menu.
HOW TO PLAN A WEDDING FROM ABROAD

Nearly every detail of the Minolas’ English countryside wedding had to be organized from eight time zones away. Here’s how they pulled it off.

 

  • SPLURGE ON THE RIGHT PHOTOGRAPHER

    Documenting your day is important, and Chelsea and James found ease knowing it would be done right. “I was so relieved throughout the planning process knowing that Ben [Blood], our photographer and friend, was going to be there making everything look beautiful. Even if something didn’t work out as planned, I knew he would find an angle,” says Chelsea.

  • MAKE A MOOD BOARD

    Early in the process, Chelsea created detailed documents with inspirational images, written descriptions, and even color chips to share with everyone she hired for the occasion. “It helped me make decisions and communicate with the various vendors. Looking back, I [realize] it was a very important planning tool.”

  • ARRIVE AT YOUR DESTINATION EARLY

    “Due to parish law, we had to live in the village two weeks before the ceremony. That was one of the most special times for us,” says Chelsea. It also served as a way for the couple to finalize details with their caterer and florist and put the finishing touches on the event.

  • GO WITH THE FLOW

    “We had to be chill about the process because we had to decide on some of the people we were working with without meeting them,” says Chelsea. Her advice: focus on finding a great location, prepare as much as you can ahead of time, then try to relax on the day of the wedding—even if things don’t work out entirely as planned.

The newlyweds and their first dance, to June Carter and Johnny Cash.
The newlyweds and their first dance, to June Carter and Johnny Cash.
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