Food and friends brought Rachel Cecil Gurney and Jacob “Jake” McConville together. Their first meeting was at a dinner party. “At the start of the evening, we were at opposite ends of the table, but by the end of the evening, we had exchanged numbers,” remembers Rachel, who’s the global sales director for de Gournay, the lust-worthy hand-painted wallpaper and fabric company founded by her father. Jake owns his own cooking business called Jake’s Kitchen. The two had been dating for one and a half years when he proposed. It was his birthday, and Rachel was taking him for lunch at their favorite restaurant, River Cafe.
“Even though I’m typically always running late, Jake insisted we walk along the river,” Rachel says. “I soon realized why! We stopped in Bishop’s Park, at the same spot we went for a picnic on one of our first dates, and Jake got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. We both forgot he hadn’t even presented me with the ring until after I said ‘Yes!’ It was a memorable lunch, and Jake is pleased that he figured out a way to detract attention from himself for all future birthdays to come!”
At first, the two were unsure about where to get married, but lucky for them Rachel’s father had two fantastic options: His house in Kent, or a villa in Croatia. “Being British, the weather was obviously at the forefront of our minds,” Rachel admits. In the end, she leaned towards a traditional English wedding, took a gamble, and penciled in midsummer at the local medieval church, a short drive from her father’s house in the countryside. “I knew that in perfect weather, which thankfully it was, there could not be a more beautiful and meaningful setting to stage the occasion.”
The house belonged to her grandparents, and her father grew up there, so she has many fond childhood memories of the historic home. “Having been lucky enough to grow up around de Gournay’s hand-painted wallpapers my whole life and spending the last 10 years working at the London showroom, it was always important for me to incorporate bespoke de Gournay elements into my wedding: I just didn’t realize how carried away I would get!”
Rachel eventually decided to base the theme around her favorite de Gournay chinoiserie wallpaper: “Temple Newsam,” a verdant composition of flora and birds in soft green, yellow, and whites that has been part of the company’s collection from its founding, and which is installed in the bedroom of the London flat she shares with Jake. “I felt like the soft green, white, and yellow palette was the perfect starting point for an English summer wedding.”
Rachel and Jake wanted a very personal feel to their wedding, so they took on the daunting task of planning it all by themselves. “Inevitably, this was stressful at times—and not always helped by my indecisive nature—but I really wanted to oversee all of the details,” Rachel says. “Jake was very patient and willing to offer his opinion even though he knew it would most likely be overruled. He was always game to roll up his sleeves for some of the more daunting tasks too, such as scaling a six-meter ladder to hang hand-painted organza within the marquee or cutting down silver birch trees in the nearby woodland!”
Unlike with the decor, Rachel had no idea where to start when thinking about her wedding wardrobe. She knew she wanted something soft and romantic, yet classical and elegant. Beyond that, she was unsure of where to begin, but she was open to trying on lots of dresses. “Just when I began to lose hope, I came across a designer I previously hadn’t heard of at Browns Brides,” she says. “It was Mira Zwillinger, and I knew straight away that this was the dress I wanted to wear on my wedding day.” She added a few personal touches to complete the look: Art Deco diamond earrings in a leaf shape, which paired perfectly with the foliage appliqué motif on the dress, and yellow rosebuds, fresh from the garden, worn loosely pinned in her hair.
All of the men wore morning dress, and Rachel asked each of her bridesmaids to choose a long dress in a different pastel tone. The flower girls and page boys were in ivory silk with blush pink sashes and cummerbunds, and the girls had flower crowns in their hair that were made using the same blooms as the bridal bouquets.?The ceremony was personal and intimate. “We both love the church and got to know the priest well while preparing for the ceremony,” Rachel says. “Given my love of music, it was difficult to decide which pieces and hymns to include, so I sought the advice of the conductor of my choir in London, and I also managed to persuade him to play the organ on the day! I felt nervous beforehand, but as soon as I walked into the church and saw so many familiar faces, the nerves faded a little. By the time I was at the altar with Jake, I felt completely relaxed and able to appreciate what a special moment it was, exchanging vows in front of all of our friends and family.”
After the service, there was a champagne and canapés reception in Rachel’s father’s garden. This was followed by toasts and the wedding breakfast, which was served in a tent with stunning views of the English countryside. At the end of the meal, the newlyweds cut the cake—a three-tier, white chocolate and raspberry confection with edible peony blossoms—and the five-piece band struck up “Say That You Love Me” by Fleetwood Mac for their first dance. “Jake and I made it ’till the last dance,” Rachel remembers, which came around 3:00 A.M. “Then, we had a cup of tea in the garden before going to bed. We were exhausted after such a wonderful day!”