Kelly & John

Saturday 24th July 2021

Photography by Yellow Door Photography

‘When we arrived at Missenden Abbey, I just knew we had found what we were looking for.’

On a dream holiday to Walt Disney World in 2018, John proposed to me in my favourite place! We had met five years earlier at the school we both work in, and I was so excited to start planning our wedding. It wasn’t long before we started to look at potential venues and were searching for the ‘WOW factor’… when we arrived at Missenden Abbey, I just knew we had found what we were looking for. John and I felt completely at ease, and I could instantly picture our perfect day surrounded by our family and friends. The staircase in the Garden Room was a real selling point, and I was already imagining beautiful cream and blush florals filling the Abbey. We booked our wedding for Saturday 1st August 2020, and I couldn’t have been happier.

With a two-year engagement ahead of us, we started to plan the other aspects of our day. We’d always known we wanted a church wedding so wasted no time in booking my family church – Holy Trinity in Potten End. Attending Missenden Abbey’s Wedding Fair in September 2018, and the Wedding Experience Day in January 2019, both helped with the next steps, as we were able to meet all of the recommended suppliers, many of whom we ended up booking for our big day.

John is from Limerick, in Ireland, and had just two requests for the day: an Irish band and a personalised cake topper. Beyond this he was very happy to let me take the reins and, although he attended meetings with a few of our suppliers, for the vast majority of the planning I was supported by my amazing mum. I think she was almost as excited about the wedding as we were, and helped us choose the florist, cake, bridesmaids dresses and, of course – my beautiful wedding dress.

With such busy schedules during term-time, most of the wedding planning took place during school holidays and I always had a list of things to tick off each half term. This helped to keep us on track, and we were heading into the ‘final countdown’ when the unthinkable happened…a national lockdown! Looking back, I was definitely naïve at the start. In March and April 2020, whenever anyone would ask whether we were postponing our wedding I would simply laugh and tell them that August was “ages away” and “surely we’ll be back to normal by then” – how wrong I was. As the days turned into weeks (and eventually months) still in lockdown, John and I started to discuss the inevitable. The main uncertainty we were facing was the travel restrictions between Ireland and England. We soon realised that to proceed with our original wedding date would mean a wedding without John’s family and so we decided to enquire about postponing.

Missenden Abbey were so fantastic throughout this difficult period of wedding planning. Our coordinator, Laura, couldn’t have been more supportive and understood our reasons for postponing completely. We were offered a couple of potential dates in 2021 and opted for Saturday 24th July. We were over the moon when every single one of our suppliers confirmed they could move to our new date.

‘It just felt like it was meant to be.’

So, our two-year engagement turned into three and wedding planning was put on the back burner…although we did decide to book a couple of additional extras to help ease the blow of postponing; a firework display and a videographer. These were both elements of our dream day that we had initially dismissed as unnecessary or too expensive. We are so glad we changed our minds!

The additional 12 months weren’t easy and, as many couples planning a wedding during the pandemic found out, the wedding industry were hit really hard. Even when large events started to open up, restrictions on weddings remained. Throughout June and July 2021, we started to have our final meetings or phone calls with various suppliers, but these discussions were still very uncertain. Although we had decided we were getting married this time regardless, and despite the government’s roadmap looking positive for our date, we were still having ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’ conversations making it difficult to imagine the day itself. Missenden Abbey were brilliant once again and Laura was always happy to answer my many, many queries and ‘what if’ scenarios!

Finally, with only a few weeks to go, Ireland removed restrictions and testing requirements for travelling to England. After 18 months of FaceTime, we would finally see John’s family again and for such a happy occasion. The UK government had pushed back the lifting of restrictions from their initial roadmap but ‘Freedom Day’ (as it came to be known) eventually came around on Monday 19th July – just five days before our wedding – we were over the moon!

In the final week, sadly Laura contacted us to tell us she had tested positive for Covid and wouldn’t be able to coordinate on the day. The way Missenden Abbey dealt with this was so professional – Laura conducted a thorough handover to Natasha who then contacted us to check all of the final details herself. The only thing that threatened to dampen our day was the weather forecast. We were in the middle of a mini heatwave which was due to end with an almighty thunderstorm…on Saturday. I placed a last-minute order for some clear umbrellas and hoped for the best. The morning of the wedding was exactly as I had hoped. My three bridesmaids had stayed with me at my parents’ house the night before and, despite an early start, we had a relaxing time having our hair and make-up done by the incredibly talented Steph and Laura respectively. As someone who has always felt a little self-conscious, I honestly felt the best I ever have, and I just couldn’t wait to see John at the altar. We were transported to the church in the most beautiful 1936 Rolls Royce 25/30 Limousine; my bridesmaids and Mum went first, and then the car returned to collect my Dad and me.

‘In all honestly, I never once felt nervous, I just felt a mixture of excitement, joy and relief that the day was finally here, and I was about to become Mrs O’Dowd.’

Our ceremony was perfect. The vicar, Joe, had prepared an amazing address which involved both the bridal party and groomsmen. It was also the first time in 18 months that the congregation had been allowed to sing hymns, so it felt incredible to hear the church so full of life again. When we were announced as husband and wife, I was truly ecstatic – our family and friends commented on my beaming smile which didn’t leave my face all day. After the confetti-run and a few photographs, it was time to head to Missenden Abbey. The car journey was a perfect opportunity for John and I to catch up and find out about one another’s mornings. It was also a chance to look forward to the rest of the day. I couldn’t wait to see the Abbey and marquee fully dressed by the amazing Taniece from Hire Heaven.

Natasha was waiting for us to arrive with a glass of champagne and our photographer Graham, from Yellow Door Photography, was ready to capture every moment. Incredibly, the rain held off for us all day and night, meaning our drinks reception was held on the beautiful lawn where we also had some of our official wedding portraits. I know that formal photographs are not for everyone, but they were a really important part of the day for us. Not only had we been apart from our family for so long, but I am especially lucky as I had all four of my grandparents with us on the day. We wanted to ensure we captured these family memories and the picturesque 400-year-old cedar tree in the grounds provided the perfect backdrop for this.

Soon enough it was time to head into the marquee for our wedding breakfast. The décor was truly stunning, and the floral arrangements surpassed my expectations. We had a three-course menu, chosen following a tasting at Missenden Abbey in May. The portion sizes were excellent, the presentation impressive and it all tasted delicious. Next came the speeches, and then it was time to welcome our additional evening guests ready to cut the cake. We had chosen an elegant, four-tiered, luxury iced cake; consisting of classic Victoria sponge, chocolate sponge with salted caramel filling, marble sponge with Oreo buttercream, and red velvet sponge. I always knew that I wanted Rachel at Sugar Designs to create our cake as she is an old school friend. I was even more delighted when I realised that she was one of Missenden Abbey’s recommended suppliers and we were not disappointed. Together with fresh flowers from Hire Heaven and our personalised topper from Artlocke Designs, I can honestly say I have never seen a more impressive wedding cake (although I may be a little biased).

The rest of the evening was so full of joy – our band, Cheesecake, played a mix of classic party tunes and Irish songs. The sparkling LED dancefloor was never empty, and all our guests were in high spirits after such a long period of restrictions. It felt incredible to dance the night away and our fireworks display provided a spectacular surprise for our guests. Total Pyro choreographed our display to ‘Happily Ever After’ which is the firework music at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida, taking John and I right back to memories of our engagement.

‘We feel so blessed to have had such an amazing wedding day.’

Many of our guests stayed with us at the Abbey overnight, meaning we were able to relive memories straight away at breakfast the next morning. John and I then headed off on our incredible honeymoon to Sandals Royal Barbados.

Planning throughout a pandemic wasn’t easy but the postponement was so worthwhile because of the experience we eventually had. Missenden Abbey ensured everything ran smoothly and we are so grateful to Laura, Natasha and the team for it all.

Top Tips for other couples:

Don’t be afraid to hand over control of the planning. We were fortunate to have my Mum and bridesmaids to help with a lot of this, but we also had complete faith in our suppliers to set everything up as we had imagined. I think that using the recommended supplier list definitely helped with this as I completely trusted Missenden Abbey.

Take a moment to watch your guests enjoying themselves – they are all there to celebrate your union. This was a piece of advice that a family member said to John and I prior to the wedding and they were so right. I remember taking this in on a couple of occasions but, in particularly, during the last song of the night. The dance floor was packed so John and I walked to the top of the staircase to watch. Everyone then turned to face us whilst dancing and it provided an incredible moment that we will never forget.

I wish I’d known… how fast the day passes. Everyone says it but it really is true. Enjoy every moment because it will be over before you know it.

‘Our first impressions of Missenden Abbey were completely right – it really does have the ‘WOW factor’.’

We have not got a bad word to say about our experience with the team because nothing appeared too much trouble. Even during an unprecedented pandemic, Missenden Abbey acted like true professionals and put their clients first. “Thank you” will never be enough for the wedding you gave us, and we cannot recommend you highly enough.

A few suppliers we used –


Hire Heaven

07922 397 489

Wedding Dress

Brides of Berkhamsted

Stella York Style 6884

Groom’s Suit

Moss Bros.

Lingfield by Moss Bros.


Allerston Taylor & Regency

01296 655021