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 pencilled 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!”