The Big Day

The ‘Lula Mai Big Day’ competition, hosted by a team of military wives at Lula Mai Events, a luxury venue décor company based here in Oxfordshire was open to all military, fire, police and ambulance services as a big thank you for all they do. Each couple had to apply via an application process which stated why they deserved to win the competition and what held them back from getting married thus far. After many applicants came flooding through, Rachel Williams, owner of Lula Mai Events had to make a very tough decision from so many worth while couples and Emma and Ross were chosen as the final winners. The good news was given via a telephone call to Emma who was completely overjoyed to hear they had won. A meeting was set up to meet the couple, and planning started to commence. Christina Barker at Chantilly Rose Weddings & Events pledged their full wedding planning package for 12 months to enable the planning process to run smoothly.

Upon asking Rachel why Emma and Ross were chosen as the winning couple she said

“We judged and chose our couple on many different criteria, including: The length of time together, ability to cope with pressure, commitment and compatibility, the story, the likelihood of remaining a married couple, future plans, approach to the application form and attitude to the possibility of winning. Emma and Ross ticked all the boxes and our decision was unanimous.”

One of the first things they had to organise was the venue itself. Witney Lakes Resort was quick to pledge the use of their ceremony and function rooms for the day. They then set the date for Friday 3rd April 2015.

Witney Lakes Resort

Em & Ross

Next to put his hand up for a wedding photography package, including a pre wedding shoot which was featured in ‘The Times’ newspaper was Darren Bedding of Darren Bedding Photography. Assisting him was Nick Stevens of Shot by Nick. You can find the article from this here as well as the some of the pre wedding shots on Darrens site here.

RAF Pilot medalsPiper

Pledges soon starting coming in thick and fast from some of the best wedding suppliers in Oxfordshire. You can find a full list of suppliers who pledged their services and more about why the competition came about by going to the about section.

LOVE LightsWedding make up - competitionEmma BrideRAF Sword

Hand tying - competitionMilitary themed wedding cake - competitionSword party entrance - competition

Emma & Ross - competition

Judy Mansfield from Cherish Ceremonies conducted a wonderful personalised service for the bride and groom which included hand fasting.

In keeping with the military theme was this wonderful cake designed by Caked in It. A map of the world was mosaicked around a three tier round sponge cake with added icing ‘cloud’ and plane toppers.

Military Choir - competition

Ross being a pilot in the RAF opted for a sword party entrance for this military themed wedding.

Lula Mai Events and Chantilly Rose worked together to surprise the newly Mr and Mrs Thompson with ‘Nobody does it better’ by The Brize Norton Military Wives Choir which brought them both to tears.

Interlight Band - competition

Interlight band finished off the evening reception with a spectacular live set which got the entire guests on their feet dancing away.

First dance - competition

The newly wedded Mr and Mrs Thompson had a wonderful day and Chantilly Rose Weddings & Events could not have been happier with the outcome.

“I am so pleased we could give something back to the military after all they do for us. Having a husband who is also in the military means I am closer than ever to understanding the hard work and dedication that goes in to the job, as well as what the                                                                 families have to go through”.

As always, a huge thank you goes out to all the suppliers that pledged. Everything you see was donated for the couple and the total amount pledged was over £22,000, which is just over the national average cost for a wedding in the UK which currently stands at £20,000.

To view the wedding video pledged by Gavin at OxBox TV please go to their YouTube link.

We are delighted to receive these wonderful testimonials from Mr and Mrs Thompson

“Christina was our wedding planner for our ceremony in April 2015.  She was an absolute pleasure to work with: professional, friendly and gave just enough of the right opinion when it mattered!  We trusted her with our big day and it was totally worth it.  Having a wedding planner took all of the hassle of the wedding off our minds and let us really enjoy even the run-up to it without feeling stressed.  No detail was too small, and she thought of a lot of small things that we would have otherwise missed.  If anyone asked whether we’d recommend her the answer would be a big yes. Thanks again so much for everything you did for us. xx” 

“Lula Mai’s involvement in our wedding was nothing short of fantastic. From day one to our last correspondence, they were friendly, professional and full of so many years experience of all things wedding related. We felt in such safe hands and were very pleased that we had trusted them with our big day. The preparation of any wedding is stressful, but ours felt very relaxed as we knew everything was under control. If you asked us whether we’d use Lula Mai again, the answer would be a definite yes. Thanks again for everything”

If you would like assistance with any aspect of your wedding day please contact Christina to arrange a free no obligation consultation by going the contact page or call on 07792812470.

Alternatively if you would like to use any of the suppliers used in The Big Day please find their contact details on the supplier page or call Rachel at Lula Mai Events on 07739506617.

CitrusMoon – floral designs

Wedding flowers are undoubtedly one of the most important elements of any big day. They add style, colour and elegance. They reflect the couple’s personality and often include personal touches that make them very special. A wedding simply wouldn’t be the same without the flowers!

CitrusMoon_PinkRoss and Emma’s flowers will be provided by Rachel Williams of CitrusMoon, an independent florist, specialising in weddings and events. RacheI looks after brides who have budgets from £100 to £10,000 and designs unique bridal flowers for each occasion. She also supplies centrepieces for larger events, such as local business awards, and has many regular clients in the local community.

Rachel’s going to be busy in the run up to the Big Day as she’s generously providing Emma’s bouquet, three bridesmaids’ bouquets, a flower wand, buttonholes, top table arrangements and centrepieces.

We’re all dying to know what flowers Emma has chosen – Rachel says, “I can’t tell you exactly what but Em was keen to be eco friendly, using native and seasonal flowers where possible. From the start she has been a delight to work with – her easy going and sweet nature facilitates an easy consultation.”

Dream flowers for every bride-to-be

CitrusMoon_ribbonRachel works to a bride’s budget rather than making them work to hers. She gives every bride-to-be the same high level of service and care to help her achieve the dream flowers she has in mind. She says, “I am always happy to incorporate personal touches, such as flowers from their parents’ garden or décor that they really want included. I’m often asked to add in granddad’s tie pin or grandma’s ring.”

CitrusMoon is a second career for Rachel who previously worked in a corporate role for 24 years. She felt she had reached her ceiling within that industry, her husband’s work commitments were changing and she saw it as an opportunity to do something she wanted to do, rather than something she needed to do to pay the bills. So she undertook some training and set up CitrusMoon just a few years ago.

The best thing, Rachel says, is “seeing the look on a bride’s face when I deliver her wedding flowers – no bride feels complete until she is holding her bouquet and ready to go. Quite often the initial consultation is months prior to the event and so it’s easy for them to forget what it is they wanted.” She adds, “I never reveal to a bride the finished product until the morning of the wedding. It’s always a magical moment when you create a picture from their mind and hand it back to them ‘just so’.”

Playing a part in something unique and special

CitrusMoon_rosebudAs well as running CitrusMoon, Rachel is also the co-founder of Lula Mai Events and so it was a natural decision for her to pledge the bridal flowers. As the final countdown begins, she’s unsurprisingly looking forward to the Big Day: “From the start all I’ve really wanted to achieve is to give someone else the chance of having a wonderfully memorable and happy day, that without our help they may not otherwise have achieved, I’m so excited to see “our” couple on their special day and to know I had a part in that is so unique and very special to me.”

CitrusMoon provides bespoke, contemporary and affordable floral designs for occasions, interior design and corporate functions. To find out more, visit, email or call 07739 506617.      


Judy Mansfield – Cherish Ceremonies

With little more than two weeks to go until The Big Day, the focus is starting to turn to the ceremony itself, so it’s time to introduce celebrant Judy Mansfield of Cherish Ceremonies.

As a civil celebrant, Judy designs and delivers ceremonies for all life’s occasions – weddings, vow renewals, baby namings, funerals and memorial services – both nationally and internationally. Her Big Day pledge is to design and deliver Ross and Emma’s wedding ceremony.

Judy has been working with Emma and Ross to create the ceremony they want. She says, “They are relaxed and chilled with a good sense of fun and I wanted to reflect their personalities in the ceremony. Most importantly, I want it to be about them”.  

Everything is possible with a celebrant

Judy takes an individual approach to each ceremony. Here she explains how she works:

“Every ceremony is unique and starts with a blank piece of paper and a conversation. Ceremonies are incredibly personal – the wedding is all about the bride and groom. We start with the vows. Those massive promises that a couple make to one another should have some input from them, yet a religious wedding or a registrar ceremony use the same wording that everyone else says. But those promises may not be right for you – so with a celebrant, you have the chance to promise what is comfortable and right for you as a couple.

“Unlike a humanist celebrant, or a registrar, I will – and do – include religion in my ceremonies if it is required. A ceremony is not about my beliefs, but about the people I am writing for.

“I also include symbolic rituals that couples can choose from. These can be anything from a Loving Cup (where the couple each pour wine – red and white usually – to make a blended rosé and then drink from the same cup after their vows have been made. Or a Time Capsule, where they place Love Letters to one another to be opened at a future date, plus letters from their parents and/or their children. I included an element of a tea ceremony in a Chinese Wedding last year, which was great fun.

Jacqui and Brian Unity Candlehandfasting

“I have spoken a few words or sentences in various languages at ceremonies, to reflect the guests’ or the couple’s nationality. This is often done phonetically – I only speak French. But I have used Portuguese, Chinese, Gaelic, Welsh, German and Italian. Everything is possible with a celebrant!

“And with a celebrant, the options are wide open. You can have your wedding ceremony anywhere you choose – no need for a licensed venue!”

“I Googled ‘celebrant’ and Cherish Ceremonies was born!

When Judy and her husband came back to the UK after 10 years overseas, to look after elderly parents, she needed to find something she could do that gave her flexibility. Self-employment was the answer – but doing what? Judy’s job had involved extensive and frequent European travel, which wasn’t going to be feasible any more.

One day, she was invited to speak at a Chamber of Commerce event about doing business with France. “One of the guests said I would make a good celebrant’, says Judy, “I hadn’t even heard of one, so I came home and Googled it. Cherish Ceremonies was born – and the rest is history!”

Judy’s life motto to is to ‘Make a Difference’ and she aims to apply this to her business. She says:

“I love the power of words and it is lovely to use those skills to design great ceremonies. I have no fear of public speaking, whether to two people or 2000 and I have appeared on national and international radio and TV, so the only nerves I ever have are the ‘good’ pre-performance nerves.”

The RingYou may kiss the bride

Judy has known Rachel and Sally, of Lula Mai Events, for some time so, when Rachel asked her to be involved, she immediately said yes.

A privilege to give back

It clearly means a huge amount to Judy to be involved with the Big Day. Her husband was in the Royal Air Force, as were her father in law and her brother. Her own career was in the Ministry of Defence and she’s an active supporter of the Royal British Legion. Judy says, “Our Armed Forces and our NHS nurses do a huge amount for others, and it is a privilege to give back where I can. For this wedding particularly, I am so pleased to work with Emma and Ross to give them the lovely wedding they so deserve.”

To find out more, visit or contact Judy on 07713 278699 or



Darren Bedding Photography

Capturing the precious memories of the bride and groom’s special day is a big responsibility. Meet Darren Bedding, the photographer trusted with capturing Ross and Emma’s Big Day and all the moments which will stay with them forever.

Darren is providing a full day of wedding photography, with a second photographer (and good friend), Nick Stevens, providing additional footage of the Big Day. Darren also provided a pre-wedding shoot, so that he could get to know Emma and Ross before their wedding day. “If I’m completely honest I wanted to make the most of Ross’s career and we were able to create images ‘Top Gun, Tom Cruise’ style!” he says.

Capturing exactly what the bride and groom want

Emma_Ross_Big_Day_2All Darren’s clients complete a ‘wish list’ style form, including ‘must have’ images, group shots and names of all the bridal party. He has already had a pre-planning meeting with Emma and Ross to understand their personal wishes and desires for the photos of their day.

“It’s always a privilege to be invited to photograph a wedding and I love to capture all the emotion and unique moments of the special day” says Darren. “I understand the importance of photographing the couple and their guests to ensure they can re-live their wedding day after the event. I record the wedding in a beautiful album of stunning images that will delight the couple and their family for many years to come.”

A way of giving back to our armed forces

Having worked with the Lula Mai team previously, Darren was easily persuaded to join the team for The Big Day and it means a great deal to him to be involved.

“Although it sounds a cliché, it is a way of ‘giving back’ to our armed services in a very personal way,” he says. “Giving to charities that are close to our heart is extremely rewarding, combining this with passion and work it is great opportunity to be involved in something, for all the right reasons. I am looking forward to working with Emma, Ross and their family and friends. I’m also excited to be working with like-minded people and other fabulous wedding suppliers.”


“If I’m completely honest I wanted to make the most of Ross’s career and we were able to create images ‘Top Gun, Tom Cruise’ style!”

Following his passion

Emma_Ross_Big_Day_1Photography has always been a passion of Darren’s but his decision to make it his career came after a life-changing event. When his daughter, Hannah, was born in 2007 and his wife returned to work full time, Darren decided it was time to embark on the journey of becoming a professional photographer. As he describes his journey, “I always had the vision and am extremely proud of what Darren Bedding Photography is today. I am a thriving and busy businessman!”

As a husband and father, Darren understands how important it is to capture special family memories through photography. He enjoys working with families to produce natural-looking images that they will treasure forever.

“I feel very proud to see the delight on my client’s faces when I present them with a set of stunning portraits”

For Darren, it’s about far more than just taking photographs. He enjoys meeting new people and getting to know them and that’s what he aims to capture in every image he takes. He wants people to see the images and know that he took them. His relaxed, no-time -limits style allows for the uniqueness and individuality of each person to shine through.

He says, “I can honestly say hand on heart, that I love my work. If I were to choose the best thing about it, I think it would have to be the moment a couple sees their wedding images come together in their wedding album and they can relive and share their special day again.”

As you’d expect, all the images in this post are from Darren’s pre-wedding shoot with the gorgeous Big Day couple, Emma and Ross.

To find out more about Darren Bedding Photography, visit, email or call Darren on 01295 273108 / 07867 801693.                  

Chantilly Rose Weddings and Events

The secret to a smooth and successful wedding is all in the planning and organising and the Big Day wedding is no exception. In this post, we meet the wedding planner extraordinaire behind Ross and Emma’s big day, Christina of Chantilly Rose Weddings and Events.

Christina is donating a full wedding planning package to Emma and Ross and will launch her brand new wedding and event planning business after the Big Day in April. ThrChantilly_rose_logoough Chantilly Rose Weddings and Events, Christina will be able to help with all planning needs from supplier sourcing to full wedding planning and general events such as birthdays and anniversaries. Christina also organises wedding fairs across Oxfordshire, alongside Lula Mai Events, and is the chair of The Oxfordshire Weddings Project – a networking group for local businesses in the wedding industry.

A born organiser


Christina of Chantilly Rose Weddings and Events

Organising and planning comes naturally to Christina and she’s obviously a real people person. After moving to West Oxfordshire in January 2014, due to her husband’s job as an operations controller in the RAF, she didn’t know the local area or anyone living there. So she started researching and only came across one Facebook page dedicated to military families living in the area. Although she found it helpful, she felt more could be done so that other wives in the same situation in the future could benefit. So she started her own Facebook page called Carterton Community, began adding information about local businesses and events and invited others to join and add their small businesses.

“Within a matter of months I had managed to gain around 600 likes and knew I was on to something good. It felt amazing to help the local community and I learnt so much about this new town I was in”, says Christina. “Even the mayor invited me over to talk about the success of the page and has since set up an events website and Facebook page off the back of it. To date the page has almost 1,000 likes and I have met a great bunch of people.”

Getting involved with the Big Day

One day, Christina received a message from a lady named Rachel (of Lula Mai Events) who wanted to advertise her three businesses. “I was very impressed and intrigued that one lady could have three successful businesses all at once and started up a conversation with her, which led me to meet her for a cuppa”, she says. “Little did I know what would happen next! After telling me about her businesses she started to tell me about an idea she and Sally, her business partner, had to give away a wedding to a couple in the military or emergency services to say thank you for what they do.”

“What a great idea I thought. The dilemma they had was unfortunately they were so busy with their businesses they didn’t actually have the hours spare that it takes to plan the entire wedding so the whole idea may have to be scrapped. With that I quickly explained how I was wanting to start up a business but wasn’t sure what type of thing I wanted to do. I had spent my school and college years learning about business and always dreamt that one day I would have my very own business. I planned my own wedding in just three short months whilst I was seven months pregnant.

“Although it was stressful at the time I still very much enjoyed it and wondered at the time what I might be like as a wedding planner. Rachel then suggested that I could be their in house wedding planner and help plan the entire wedding, enabling them to go ahead with the idea. With a love for helping people it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Things then progressed very quickly and Rachel and Sally agreed they would mentor me for a year in return for all my help. I could not have asked for better mentors. Both Rachel and Sally have been absolutely amazing and I will be continuing to work alongside them after the wedding.”

What’s next for Chantilly Rose?

As the Big Day approaches, Christina has been carefully building her business in the background and making strong relationships with the local wedding industry. She plans to launch in April and has already set up various social media accounts (see below for details) and trained with the UK Alliance of wedding planners.

Christina’s website will also be launching in April – to be the first to see it, go to and leave your e-mail address.

To find out more, call Christina on 07792 812470 or email You can also follow Chantilly Rose via any of the following social media sites:

Ross and Emma’s story

This month it’s the turn of our lovely bride and groom, Ross and Emma, to take the spotlight. The Lula Mai team already know their story pretty well from the application they made for The Big Day.

We judged and chose our couple on many different criteria, including: The length of time together, ability to cope with pressure, commitment and compatibility, the story, the likelihood of remaining a married couple, future plans, approach to the application form and attitude to the possibility of winning. Emma and Ross ticked all the boxes and our decision was unanimous.

We recently spent an hour chatting to them so we could hear their tale first hand and share it with you.

Third time lucky

Emma and Ross first met 10 years ago, when they were just 19 and 22. Ross had been training at RAF Cranwell with Emma’s sister, Sarah, who invited her sisters to the graduation ball. When Ross first set eyes on Emma that evening, his first thought was “God, please let her be single”! Emma, on the other hand says, “I remember thinking he was skinny and a bit geeky”!


They spent the evening of the ball together and met up a few times in the next couple of weeks but life prevented their relationship developing further, with Emma in Oxford and Ross working in Lincolnshire. When Ross was posted to Oxfordshire, Emma was ironically moving up north to study. So for a while they lost touch.

When they next met up, they both happened to be single and dated for a few months. Yet, once again, it just wasn’t meant to be. Ross was doing month-long trips overseas with little Internet or phone contact possible and Emma had already committed to move abroad with work.

“It seemed to be a case of ‘right person, wrong time’”, says Ross. “There were more than enough chances to say ‘this doesn’t make sense’ but something just kept on bringing us back together.”


Their third chance came at Christmas in 2010. Having just returned to live in the UK, Emma suggested meeting up and told Ross she thought they’d made a mistake by not being together. Little did she know that it really was their last chance; Ross had set a personal deadline of the end of that year for them to finally work it out, or he would move on for good.

Emma moved in with him two weeks later and they haven’t looked back since!

Supporting each others’ passions in life

The early days of life as a military partner brought challenges for Emma. Ross was away for up to 10 hours a day, while she was at home in their tiny flat, working for a non-profit news website where she had little face-to-face contact with people. She decided to make a huge change, and follow her true passion of helping women and families by training as a midwife.

“That really sealed the deal for us”, she says, “I couldn’t have done it without Ross’s support”.

Emma then found work as a maternity support worker, before being accepted onto a three-year training course. Although she fits part-time work caring for elderly people in around her studies, the financial pressures of her studying full-time for three years meant that their wedding plans were a long way off.

Ross meanwhile is based at RAF Brize Norton, carrying military passengers and freight worldwide. The schedules and inevitable last minute nature of military life mean that Ross and Emma’s time together is still rare. “You get used to going to events on your own”, says Emma.

They’re looking forward to moving into married quarters next year, which will be the first time they’ve properly set up a home together.


We thought we didn’t stand a chance of winning

It was Emma who saw the competition on Facebook and thought she’d give it a go, inspired that it involved telling their story. “You’ve got to be in it to win it!” she says. Ross warned her not to get her hopes up and they truly thought they had no chance of winning.

When the call came, Emma says she’d never been so shocked in her whole life. Away visiting friends, she was a couple of hundred miles away from Ross. When they got the news, each of them jumped in the car and met in Oxford. Next came a couple of crazy hours phoning friends and family at before Lula Mai announced them as winners the following morning.

The Big Day means so much

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and we’re so grateful to Lula Mai and all the suppliers”, says Ross. “We could have had a very small wedding but it was so important to have friends and family there that we had originally decided to save for a few years first. But we’re 30 and 32 now so it’s great not having to wait”. He adds, “This simply wouldn’t have been possible without The Big Day”.

Giving something back

Both Ross and Emma both feel a huge sense of responsibility as winners of The Big Day. Emma says, “We’re representing the military and emergency services, and the day is such a team effort by all the suppliers, showing their support for everyone in the services and all that they do.”

Ross says, “I’m not daunted by public speaking, it’s part of my job, yet speaking to everyone at the Lula Mai supplier event was nerve-wracking because it was so personal. Having all these great people with us on this journey is amazing.”

The couple feel they have been incredibly lucky to receive so much that they want to give something back. Instead of asking their wedding guests for gifts, they’ll be giving people the chance to donate to two charities that reflect their careers and passions:  The Royal British Legion is the UK’s leading Service charity, providing care and support to serving members of the Armed Forces, veterans of all ages and their families; Hamlin Fistula UK supports the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in its care for women from all over Ethiopia who have suffered complications and life-changing injury in childbirth, many of whom have travelled for weeks, even months, to seek treatment.

Emma and Ross are a truly lovely couple who are clearly made for each other. We really can’t wait to see them enjoying their Big Day next April.