January 3rd, 2017 | Laura McDonagh
It’s holiday season here on the blog, and as the editorial team take a short break, we’ll be leaving you with a reduced blogging schedule so that you still get your daily dose of wedding lovely. Usual service will recommence on Monday 9th January 2017 but in the meantime watch out for recaps of some of our favourite Real Weddings from 2016.
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Luisa and Peter pulled off the impressive feat of a winter wedding without a can of snow spray or a gilded pine cone in sight. Instead, their big day at Colshaw Hall in Cheshire, was led by an organic woodland theme, full of warm earthy tones and plenty of grown-up black-tie glamour.
The food and the playlist were particular focal points for this Manchester music-loving pair, and the following day saw the festivities extended with an aprés-ski extravaganza. So get comfortable, perhaps with a glass of Malbec or a mulled wine – go on, Luisa would definitely approve!
With images by Jonny Draper Photography
luisa says: Peter and I got engaged in Barbados. One night we went down for dinner and, instead of heading for our usual table in the restaurant, we were led down a path lined with candles that took us to a private beach and a table for two. When we sat down and opened the menus, I saw all of my favourite foods and champagne. Then a steel band appeared playing Elvis Presley’s I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. When I looked around, Peter was down on one knee; it was a truly magical moment. He made a beautiful speech and, of course, I said yes. We spent the rest of the week celebrating and relaxing; it was just so perfect!
We chose to get married on 19th December 2015 because it was the closest Saturday to the Winter Solstice – a date important to me and my mum. We wanted a winter wedding as we felt that there were lots more options to explore in terms of the decorations and the vibe that we could create.
For the venue, we chose Colshaw Hall in Cheshire. We wanted to make sure that the event was totally private and this was the huge bonus of Colshaw: the venue and all of its grounds are hired exclusively so we wouldn’t be sharing our special day with anyone else. Secondly, as Peter’s family are based in Suffolk, we wanted to make sure that there was accommodation onsite to ensure that the wedding weekend was as easy as possible for those travelling. Having looked at quite a few venues in the area, Colshaw’s accommodation was, we felt, the most beautiful. Each room has its own stunning theme and beautiful view over the grounds. Colshaw’s Peel Suite also offered a beautiful blank canvas; no wedding looks the same there. We had hired the main house for the drinks and canapés straight after the service and this offered a unique, cosy, Christmas drinks party atmosphere.
Theme-wise, we wanted to create a natural and organic winter forest. Peter and I love walking our dog Digby up on the Edge and we wanted to recreate that same earthy, woodland environment. I wanted my wedding to be just that little bit ‘out there’, and having the trees as the centrepiece certainly achieved that goal. As our wedding was the weekend before Christmas, I think people expected us to go down the more conventional festive route and it was truly lovely seeing their reactions to the chapel and the main room. We’d focused on lots of earthy tones, such as dark greens and ambers, making sure that everything was lit by candles to create warmth.
I had chosen quite a traditional and simple gown designed by Stewart Parvin with the lace detail as a nod to my Italian heritage. My dress was bought and styled by the incredible ladies at LOVE Bridal in Cheshire. They helped accessorise my gown with a Stewart Parvin veil, lace jacket and honey-toned belt which contemporised it perfectly. My shoes were Hangisis by Manolo Blahnik; I just loved their quirkiness. In the evening, I removed the lace jacket and added a thin sparkly belt to liven it up for the dancing. I visited several bridal stores and LOVE Bridal’s service surpassed all the London boutiques. From the beautiful little cakes they serve to the ‘grand reveal’, the wonderful Emma and Clare have it covered.
Peter had a handmade dinner suit from a store in Suffolk called Trotter and Deane. His shirt was made in such a way as to conceal the pattern on the back while he was wearing his jacket. This ensured a brilliant moment of revelation on the dancefloor in the evening and really expressed Peter’s quirkier side.
Our dress code was black tie and floor length gowns. As it gets dark so early in winter, we really wanted to create a ball-like environment, and so the groomsmen wore dinner suits and the bridesmaids wore floor-length, dark green gowns with a hint of lace to match my gown.
It was important to me that we travelled to the chapel as a family, and so I went in my father’s car with my brother driving and my mum in the front seat. We stopped off for champagne at the bottom of the drive to Colshaw and listened to some family songs. It was a very special part of my day.
Our photographer was the wonderful Jonny Draper. He really is the ultimate wedding photographer. From the moment we met to do our pre-wedding shoot on the Edge, Jonny had us in hysterics. He assimilated himself into the wedding party seamlessly and there’s no way we could imagine the day without him. He was excellent in the morning while I was getting ready – when I cracked my head against the wall trying to get into my dress, Jonny was the one who kept calm and got the frozen peas and the makeup artist upstairs! Peter and I didn’t want to miss out on our wedding because we were posing for awkward pictures (we’re not the most photogenic couple!) but Jonny has a beautiful reportage style that suited us perfectly. I remember refusing to go back outside due to the weather and yet he begged me to go back to the chapel. Eventually the Draper charm won me over and I’m so pleased it did because he got the shot of our wedding!
I carried a bouquet of tulips created by Matt Hepplestone of Red Floral Architecture. I gave him no direction other than the choice of flowers; he’s a true creative genius, and such was my level of trust in him. He carefully folded the tulips in for an incredibly unusual effect which I loved.
In order to create our winter forest, we also used Red Floral Architecture. I couldn’t show Matt what I wanted because I hadn’t seen it anywhere at this point. But Matt didn’t need me to; he simply got it, despite my very jumbled and incoherent brief! We used trees and winter foliage on the tables as well as lots of exposed logs and stags’ heads. The trees were dripping in low level candles and created the most beautiful environment. Red Floral also created the vision in the chapel which emulated a forest floor – lots of moss, twigs and, of course, candles.
In terms of a cake, we initially wanted a croquembouche – however, it proved a logistical nightmare. We then found the company Polka Pops, who were able to make a huge cake tower of cake pops in different flavours and using our colour scheme. Not only did it look incredible, but it was completely devoured! Guests could select a couple of cake pops and revisit the ‘cake’ throughout the evening, which really suited the flow of our day. We also decided to serve winter cocktails with a range of canapés laid out on a bed of foliage and dry ice.
For the wedding breakfast we served our two favourite wines, Malbec and Gavi. Our starter was Thai spiced marinated seabass on Asian slaw with crisp noodles, soy and miren sauce. For the main, we had breast of Suffolk duckling, confit leg bon-bon with sherry vinegar and wine sauce, dauphinoise potatoes, sautéed Savoy cabbage, heritage carrots and beets. Finally, for dessert we enjoyed poached and roasted pear, chocolate Aero, dehydrated chocolate mousse, Rioja jelly, Rioja crisp and smoked sea salt. Then we finished off with teas, coffees and homemade petit fours.
Later on in the evening we served chicken and lamb kebabs with a fatoush salad, chilli sauce and minted yoghurt and cones of beer-battered fish and chips with sea salt and Sarsons vinegar. The food was absolutely divine and created by the fabulous Matt Barrett from Barrett’s Catering. Not only did it taste fantastic, but Matt’s team’s whole process is seriously impressive – more like an exclusive top-end restaurant than a catering company trying to serve 150 guests.
Music is massively important to us and our families so it was vital for us to have good live music playing throughout the entire wedding weekend. My mum and I enjoyed many nights out at local bars sipping margaritas and listening to bands doing our ‘research’! During our wedding breakfast we had the brilliant Live Lounge Duo who played an acoustic set of Manchester classics – think The Smiths, The Stone Roses and, of course, Oasis. We didn’t want the room to feel flat during the meal and the Live Lounge Duo certainly made sure that wasn’t the case. They gauged the atmosphere brilliantly, singing only in between courses and ramping up the music near the end of dinner in order to get people ready for the party.
While the coffees, cake and petit fours were being served, we were entertained by the fantastic magician Sam Fitton. Sam’s humour is infectious and his magic had all of our guests in awe. Sam also performs a special surprise for the bride and groom which, quite frankly, blew me away. He was truly excellent and the guests all spoke very highly of his affable nature and talent.
For our evening entertainment, we had live music from amazing band The Rush, comprising saxophonists, drummers and headed up by unbelievably talented Gavin Jones. The dancefloor was jammed all night. Our DJ was the awesome Andy Murphy, who also packed the dance floor to the very end. Andy also made a little personal video of the wedding which we received the next day – a really lovely extra touch.
During our ceremony we had the Lady Barn House School choir perform two personalised songs written for our special day. I went to LBHS and sang in the same choir. Throughout the service, they were accompanied by a pianist, flautist and violinist. We also included a candle ceremony where we both held two separate flames and joined them as one to symbolise our two families coming together.
In reality, we didn’t just have a wedding: we hosted a wedding weekend. We married and had the meal on the Saturday, and then our guests returned to Colshaw Hall on Sunday for an après-ski party (Peter and I met skiing). The vibe was completely different the next day – we encouraged jumpers and jeans and had food stations serving global hangover dishes including curry, paella, a carvery and an amazing array of mini-desserts. There was mulled wine on tap and spirits were high. We partied well into the evening with the help of some more live music, a snowboard simulator, skiing arcade games and a photo booth.
Straight afterwards, Peter and I jumped on a plane to Barbados for Christmas. We spent our days kitesurfing and enjoying long, lazy lunches at the Fishpot drinking copious amounts of Gavi. We had Christmas Eve at the Cliff and Christmas Day at Lonestar. It was perfect and relaxing but more of a minimoon. For our main honeymoon, we flew out to Kerala in South India, where we had the most beautiful adventure: climbing mountains, sailing around the Keralan backwaters and totally indulging ourselves with amazing food and Ayervedic spa treatments. It was just bliss!
And finally, my top tip for other Brides Up North – this is the most enjoyable day of your life and it really doesn’t need to be stressful in any way. Make your decisions with tonnes of positivity and just be grateful that you have the opportunity to plan such a wonderful day for your family and friends. Enjoy every single minute of the process because it’s soon over and, believe it or not, you miss all of the planning!
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Laura is a true Northophile: she married Adam in Durham in 2011 accompanied by 200 Northumbrian lamb shanks and a Mackem 1950s tribute band who did a rockabilly cover version of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On. They honeymooned in Northumberland in a 1972 MG convertible, went surfing in Alnmouth and made it to the Edinburgh Fringe (let's ignore the fact that it rained all week). Her big mantra is 'no regrets'...but if she could travel back in time and wear a wedding dress with a Peter Pan collar and pockets, she'd pretty much die happy.
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