Charlotte Balbier
Brides Up North Wedding Fairs

bunting & blooms. johanna hehir for a pretty springtime wedding at the ashes – tracey & neil

October 14th, 2016 | Julia Braime

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

Keen to give their guests a day to remember, today’s bride and groom put great food and drink and fabulous entertainment high up on their list of priorities.

They styled their day with cute bunting, colourful blooms and a sprinkling (or two) of gold glitter, and enjoyed celebrating within their stunning rural venue, whilst also seizing the opportunity to make the most of its surroundings too!

We love bride Tracey’s stunning sleeved gown, topped off with a pretty paper flower crown.

With images by Paul Joseph Photography.

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

tracey says: Neil proposed to me at Castle Howard in York, at the end of December 2014. It’s one of my favourite places in the world! We visited York as part of our very first weekend away together in the infancy of our relationship – we stopped off at Castle Howard because of my obsession with the novel Brideshead Revisited. We had such a brilliant time there and it’s so incredibly beautiful – Neil later told me, once he’d proposed, that for a long time he knew he would propose to me there. He’s a good egg!

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

As I’m a teacher, we were slightly constrained when it came to picking a date for the wedding. I didn’t want to get married over the summer as I don’t like the heat at the best of times. We also wanted to get the wedding done and out of the way so we could go on a massive holiday of a lifetime over the summer (this was our attitude in the early days of our engagement: the wedding was an excuse for a big party and a means to going on a huge holiday adventure together). We thought Easter might make a nice time and started looking at venues with that two week window in mind. When we mentioned Easter to close family and friends, they started to swoon at the idea of spring and the flowers about – and so we ended up getting married on Wednesday 6th April.

Finding a venue proved to be really tough. We visited a couple in our area that were not really ‘us’. At that stage, we didn’t really know what we wanted, we were just going on gut instinct. Fortunately, Neil found The Ashes one night whilst he was reading about wedding awards online – the venue, which is located in Staffordshire, had won one award a few years on the trot and so we thought it might be worth visiting. We liked everything about The Ashes; its informality, its beauty, the organisation of it all. We booked it that day.

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

I tried to steer away from themes and just did things I thought might look nice. We ended up with pastel colours because of the season. There was also a lot of gold glitter. Ask my dad about gold glitter and he’ll tell you that he’s still finding it in the boot of his car almost six months on! We hoarded jam jars and interesting glass for months before the wedding and then used PVA glue and gold glitter to decorate them – it doesn’t sound that impressive but we were really pleased with how they turned out and people were able to take jars home at the end of the night. This spread the gold glitter love even more!

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

Dress shopping was one element of the wedding that I didn’t enjoy. My poor mum traipsed around all sorts of bridal boutiques with me and we didn’t even find one that we were close to liking. I did a lot of reading of wedding blogs and looked at every dress and designer I discovered online. I eventually came across Johanna Hehir and the Elspeth dress. I screenshot an image of the dress and looked at it on my phone every day until I was finally able to try it on. The designer is based in New Zealand and few stores actually stock her dresses in the UK. It was a lace strapless dress with delicate sleeves that covered my arms – on the wedding day I pretended to be Queen Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Because of the sleeves, I knew I didn’t want a veil as our wedding wasn’t a religious/traditional affair anyway. Instead, I bought a simple paper flower crown from Etsy, which complemented the dress really well.

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

We knew we didn’t want blue suits for the wedding, so we thought about grey. I thought suit shopping with Neil would be a total nightmare but it was actually very easy. We found his suit in the Hugo Boss store in Brighton on a day trip there for my birthday. It was the first one he tried on and it just needed some alterations. He looked so handsome in it!

We had one bridesmaid and one groomsmen and they wore whatever they wanted to wear. Claire, my bridesmaid, found a beautiful dress from Reiss that ended up complementing mine and my mum’s so well. She looked totally gorgeous and I loved that it wasn’t your typical ‘matchy matchy’ dress. Tim wore a suit he already had from his own wedding – we bought all the boys involved in the wedding a navy wool tie so they all had something in common.

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

Our photographers were the loopy Paul and Kel of Paul Joseph Photography. They were absolutely brilliant fun and made the day really enjoyable, as both of us weren’t that keen on being the centre of attention. Paul came up with the idea of escaping to the moor for half-an-hour during sunset. Although it was really windy, it was completely worth going up there as some of our favourite photos were from that part of the day. We now have the dramatic and moody sunset, dress swish, Wuthering Heights picture hanging in our living room. Paul and Kel captured our day perfectly; I vividly remember getting the email to say our photos were ready to view online and then rushing home to look through them. I soon got a text from Neil at work saying he’d had to go and hide in the staff toilets whilst he composed himself because looking though them had made him cry happy tears. We totally adore our wedding photos and they perfectly sum up what a wonderfully fun day we had.

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

When it came to decorating the venue, we had lots of pretty pastel bunting from Hobbycraft strung around the reception room. Rose at The Topiary Tree, did a fabulous job filling our gold glitter jars with seasonal, pastel flowers. We also had a swag of flowers that was placed on the table to sign the register and then moved onto the top table in the reception room – it was beautiful and smelt lovely. We gave Rose free reign with the flower choice. Neither of us pretended to know anything about the types of flowers we wanted and this just created another lovely surprise on the day – the flowers really were breathtakingly beautiful and smelled divine.

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

My mum insisted we have a wedding cake but she was adamant that she didn’t want us to have a traditional wedding cake. So again, Neil and I gave her free reign to design our cake and this was part of another glorious surprise a couple of days before the wedding. Mum gave her ‘cake vision’ to The Cake Artists, in Solihull. Boy, did they do a wicked job! We had one cake each to represent us – not only were they awesome looking, they also tasted amazing and, in our eyes, beat any kind of traditional wedding cake you can buy.

As another sweet treat for our guests Polly’s Parlour – a beautiful reconditioned VW camper/ ice cream van. The ice creams were delicious and I wish I’d had a second!

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

To provide entertainment we booked Riffler, a rock cover group from Mansfield, as we’d seen them at a friend’s wedding a few years before. Once we’d booked them, we knew our wedding would be the party we wanted. We danced the night away! They learned our first dance song especially for us and even learnt our reserve song when we couldn’t make our mind up. Plus, we had a father and daughter dance to Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen – Riffler belted out this song and dad was delighted. I’ll always remember the look of recognition on his face when he realised what they were playing for him. They were awesome!

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

After the wedding we went on honeymoon to Namibia. As wedding gifts our guests had paid towards activities we could take part in whilst there. We had a 4×4 and drove round the country (just over 1,600 miles in total) stopping off at the desert to see the dunes and elephants, the coast – where we went kayaking with seals and sandboarding – and then north to Etosha National Park and then to Okonjima, a cheetah sanctuary. It was a crazy adventure and a whirlwind two weeks that we’ll never forget.

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

My top tip to other Brides Up North would be to do what you want – it’s your wedding. Spend money on the things that are important to you. For us, it was the photographers, providing good food and drink for our guests and the entertainment (ice cream van and the band). Think about what you want your guests to leave your wedding saying/thinking. I have been a guest at many weddings where guests had been totally forgotten and where style over substance was more important. We always kept in mind that our guests were travelling at least an hour to our venue and we wanted to make that journey worthwhile. We wanted them to leave with really happy memories of the day, so it was really important we provided enough entertainment, they were looked after well and that they weren’t hanging about for too long.

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

Tracey + Neil's Rustic Spring Wedding at The Ashes in Staffordshire

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about the author

Julia Braime
Former lawyer and bride to be Julia founded Brides Up North in 2010 with a chip on her shoulder. Frustrated by the poor Northern presence in glossy bridal magazines and online, she decided to do something about it herself. Astounded by the rapid growth of her blog and brand, Julia now manages Brides Up North’s online content alongside their busy wedding exhibition season, industry events and related commissions. And she’s always, always, got a new project on the go…

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