Charlotte Balbier
Brides Up North Wedding Fairs

wild hearts. a wedding at chester zoo – ruth & marc

January 24th, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (49)

We love it when a wedding offers up something alternative and today’s couple certainly hosted a day to remember – complete with guests of the furry variety!

Ruth and Marc exchanged vows in the magnificent St Elphin’s Church in Warrington before hosting their wedding at Chester Zoo. Guests then enjoyed a private safari with the zookeepers, with other highlights including a trip on a London Routemaster bus, afternoon tea and a special performance from the choir that first brought the couple together.

Opting for a pretty pastel palette, this wedding combines classic touches with the unconventional. Here are all the dreamy details…

With images by Jack Knight.

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (8)

ruth says: We got engaged on Monday 14 December 2015 on top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We were on holiday in Disneyland at the time and had gone to Paris for the day. After soaking up the culture in the Louvre, visiting the Christmas markets and enjoying some lovely food, we went up the Tower that evening to enjoy the spectacular view of Paris at night. I can remember looking at Marc on the way up and thinking he looked really nervous – which was odd because he isn’t particularly scared of heights. As we were looking out at the beautiful twinkling lights I heard Marc saying my name behind me. I turned around and there he was on one knee! It was all very romantic!

We got married on Tuesday 30th August 2016. We wanted a date that was in the summer holidays as I am a teacher and so are lots of my friends.

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (38)

We tied the knot at St Elphin’s Church in Warrington, which is a truly spectacular church. I lived just round the corner when I was growing up and used to love listening to the bells. I always hoped I’d get married there!

Our reception took place at Oakfield Manor at Chester Zoo. As soon as we began looking for a venue we knew this was the one for us – we didn’t even look anywhere else! There are so many reasons why we loved this venue: it is a beautiful building with beautiful surroundings, it was budget friendly and incredibly flexible, and it’s something a bit different. We loved that we were able to have a private safari once the zoo closed, and our guests loved it, too. And even better, all the money went back into the charity so we were helping the zoo’s conservation efforts too whilst having the most amazing day!

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (41)

We didn’t have a them, but just put together a day which reflected us. I made a lot of things myself, and some friends and family made things for us too, so the whole wedding had a slightly handmade, rustic feel.

We chose pastels for our colour scheme because neither one of us wanted to choose one specific colour. I loved this choice because it gave me more freedom; provided everything was a pastel shade – it was ok! No stressing about finding things that matched an exact shade.

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (16)

I chose a White Rose dress from Wife to Be in Warrington. The staff there are amazing and so lovely. I went along with my mum expecting to just have a look and try a few styles but ended up finding ‘the one’. It was just perfect for me. I knew I had to have it when my mum started crying, which then made me cry – the shop assistant gave us all a group hug as she got caught up in the emotion too! When I went for my first fitting, the dress fit absolutely perfectly – not a single alteration was needed. It was definitely MY dress!

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (7)

Marc wore a blue tweed suit from Marc Darcy. He wanted something with a bit of colour and style to it rather than ‘a boring, plain suit’ (his words). He loved it and it suited him perfectly – he fully plans on wearing it again at the next possible occasion.

My bridesmaids wore matching dresses in different pastel shades. I chose a design with a lace top which was similar to my dress, in a shape which I thought would be flattering for all of them. I liked the idea of different colours and it worked really well as we were able to match the colours to suit the right people. My sister, Naomi, tried on the pink dress and it looked awful, but on my friend Marta it looked lovely!

The groomsmen all wore grey suits which we hired from Slaters Menswear, and had pastel coloured ties and handkerchiefs to match the bridesmaids. I remember taking David, my stepdad, to be measured and telling him he could choose any pastel shade. I then had to explain that red is not a pastel shade (he chose pale yellow in the end!).

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (15)

We hired a vintage London Routemaster bus for the day from RM Buses in Wigan, which we had personalised with our names on the front. It was great because we could transport all our guests from the church to the reception in style. We chose not to have our own car and travelled with our family and friends on the bus instead. The atmosphere was fantastic – lots of smiles and laughter.

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (11)

Our photographer was Jack Knight. He was fantastic to work with from start to finish and I would definitely recommend him to others. He understood that we wanted photos which captured the little details of the day and which told a story rather than just being posed. The pictures he took are perfect and reflect the day beautifully.

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (17)

I carried flowers that were provided by a local florist – Nikki’s Floral Designs. I was very vague in telling her what I wanted (pastels and pretty), but somehow she created bouquets and buttonholes which were exactly what I wanted. She was lovely to work with and I would definitely recommend her to others.

The church was so beautiful that it didn’t need much decoration, but I added some flowers to the ends of the pews. I decorated jam jars, kindly donated by friends and family, and we filled them with flowers ourselves the day before the wedding. It was a lovely group activity with the bridesmaids, my mum and Marc, with even his best man Dave lending a hand. We then took the jars with us to the reception and used them to decorate the tables and the rest of the venue along with our other decorations.

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (19)

We had afternoon tea, so used vintage china for our table decorations, along with handmade teabags (with Marc’s own blends of tea!) and handmade personalised teapot decorations as favours. We also wanted our guests to have fun so we gave them wedding badges, animal finger puppets, photo challenge cards and personalised sweets.

Our cake was made by two very good friends, who are excellent cake makers! It tasted delicious and I have told them they need to go in to business together. We chose a lemon drizzle cake with lemon curd for the bottom layer, chocolate cake with mint icing for the middle layer and carrot cake for the top. They were iced with buttercream in pale yellow, green and pink and then we added a few edible roses. I finished the cake off with some mini handmade bunting.

We had Pimms on arrival and Prosecco with our speeches. We had afternoon tea as our wedding breakfast and a hog roast later in the evening.

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (29)

For our entertainment – we had the zoo! After it closed to the public, we had our own private safari with the zookeepers. It was fantastic and we saw the animals enjoying some peace and quiet in the evening sun. Being a few metres away from a lion in my wedding dress was a surreal experience but definitely a memorable moment!

In the evening, we used Marc’s music equipment and played a Spotify playlist full of our favourite songs. We asked our guests to request songs with their RSVPs so we made sure we had everyone else’s favourites on there, too.

Marc runs a choir (which is actually where we met) so we wanted to include them in the ceremony. They had secret rehearsals in the months before the wedding and learnt a new song especially for us. It was beautiful to hear them singing Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music (another favourite of mine) just after we signed the register. They were even joined by our family and friends from all over the country who had learnt their parts from recordings sent over the internet.

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (35)

The tables were all named after shows that Marc and I have seen together and we used scans of the tickets in picture frames to decorate the tables. Our first dance was to a song from the musical Gypsy, which we both agree was one of the best things we’ve ever been to see.

As a special touch, Marc’s mum learnt to sew for the occasion and made us some personalised bunting (I love bunting) with our names and the date on.

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (23)

I made other decorations such as the table plan, the post box for cards and our guest book. I even decorated my own shoes! I made two pairs using lace and pearls – a pair of heels for the ceremony and pair of Converse for the reception. Each pair had a little blue bow on them as my ‘something blue’.

We provided blankets for sitting outside in the evening and flip-flops for dancing in when people’s feet got tired. I also made little ‘essentials’ baskets for the bathrooms with emergency toiletries, tights, safety pins, hairclips and gum in them.

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (51)

We would definitely recommend our venue. All the staff at Chester Zoo were brilliant and worked really hard to make sure the day was perfect. Nothing was too much trouble and they made us feel really relaxed from the start. They were very professional.

My favourite part of the day? I loved it all! The choir was definitely a highlight – it was so touching to see how much effort everyone had gone to. It was just lovely to have all our friends and family there to share the day with us. When I walked into the church I was amazed (and a bit overwhelmed) by how many people were actually there. Lots of people travelled a long way to be with us (Dubai was the furthest!) which was really touching.

As another surprise, we had some video messages from people who couldn’t make it, and my brother put together slideshows of pictures of us both growing up which was really funny.

A Pastel Wedding at Chester Zoo (c) Jack Knight Photography (53)

We haven’t been on our honeymoon yet, but we are spending two weeks in Thailand towards the end of January. I can’t wait! We are spending some of the time exploring the sights of Bangkok and visiting an elephant sanctuary for rescued elephants before heading to the beautiful island of Koh Kood for some serious relaxation!

We did go on a ‘mini-moon’ to festival number six in Portmeirion two days after the wedding. We went with a group of friends and had a great time enjoying the music and entertainment (and mud) in great company.

My top tips for other Brides Up North would be, relax and enjoy it! Don’t get too caught up in the small details and just make the day your own. We tried to make sure we spent some time with all our guests too because they were what really made the day so special.

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about the author

Alexis Forsyth
Originally from north of the border, Alexis has lived in the North East for the past 15 years and considers herself officially an adopted Geordie. A qualified journalist - Alexis took up the position of editor at the region’s longest running business publication in 2015 before moving into a marketing role for one of the UK’s largest independent arts and craft galleries. Alexis currently edits her own lifestyle blog, where you can find her latest musings on all things Newcastle-related, together with a smattering of her Instagram-worthy cocktail and foodie pics. Yet to find Mr Right herself, Alexis sees this as a mere formality when it comes to tying the knot, as she’s already picked out her dream wedding dress, theme and venue...

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