Charlotte Balbier

retro romantics. a glamorous vintage wedding at the belle epoque – zoe & chris

April 10th, 2017 | Laura McDonagh

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (30)

Today’s bride Zoe was aiming for ‘1940s film starlet’ for her vintage wedding day look. After seeing these photographs, we’re sure you’ll agree that she smashed it. With her tea-length dress, birdcage veil and amazing Ingrid Bergman-esque ‘do’, she looks every inch the glamourous bride.

Retro vibes permeate every aspect of this gorgeous wedding, from the live music to the rich colours of the bridesmaids’ dresses and the stunning floral arrangements. Full marks, guys!

Here at Brides Up North HQ, we’re also touched by Zoe’s advice to brides-to-be: look into your partner’s eyes and not the registrar’s (!), and get thee to a Brides Up North wedding fair. Who are we to disagree?!

With photography by Kate McCarthy Photography

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (34)

zoe says: We got engaged in Venice at 5.30am on a bridge in Canaregio on 7th May 2016. We’d always wanted to have a two-week holiday in Italy with a week in Venice then a week in Tuscany. We arrived on the Friday and got a water taxi (a complete treat, but obviously Chris knew he was going to propose on holiday whereas I had no clue!)

We love seeing a city wake up, so got up early on the Monday to go and walk round the beautiful streets. We started to cross the bridge right by our apartment and Chris caught my hand, stopped me and said, “Do you love it here?” I replied “Yes, of course” and he then got down on one knee – at which point I started grinning madly! And then he said “Great – in that case, would you do me the great honour of becoming my wife?” and produced the most beautiful emerald cut diamond ring! At this point I wanted to shout “Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!” quite loudly but remembered no one else was awake. Instead, we skipped (literally) down the street grinning our heads off!

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (21)

Our wedding was planned for 10th February 2017. We wanted to get married quickly but still have some time to plan. We were extremely flexible and so chose our location and then saw what they could offer us – they had this particular Friday free and so we booked it!

Our venue was The Belle Epoque in Knutsford. We had quite a tick list – we wanted somewhere unusual and quirky, with a dancefloor and room for a band but also somewhere with a separate room so that people could sit down and talk. Chris doesn’t dance and so wanted to be able to go around and speak to everyone. I visited it with my mum and, walking in, I was immediately excited; it has a lovely feel, is full of art deco art and pieces, it has a huge welcoming fireplace and the bar is straight in front as you walk in. I spied a room off this entrance with tables and chairs in, so immediately thought that was a tick. We then went upstairs to the dining area which was set up for a wedding – I actually gasped! They had twisted willow and flowers and fairy lights hanging from the ceiling and huge tall vases of flowers, vibrant, rich, opulent colours and gorgeous iris-patterned wallpaper. I was a little bit teary and knew this was the place.

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (31)

Our theme was a bit vintage and Peaky Blinders, I suppose. I love vintage dresses and wanted to look like a 1940s film star. We didn’t have a colour-scheme as such, but we chose deep reds, purples and pinks for the bridesmaids and flowers. I wanted the bridesmaids to choose their own dress and style but with a vintage theme. I wanted them to be able to wear them again and really enjoy choosing their own dresses!

For my dress, I knew I wanted something in a vintage style from the 40s/50s and tea-length. I started to look on Pinterest and came across a dress that I loved, so went onto the designer’s website and found a local stockist. I went to Puure in Lymm and Angie, the owner, saw me. I tried the dress I’d seen on and liked it but she insisted I try on more – and I was happy to oblige! After another one, she bought a dress out that I looked at and my heart started to beat faster even though it was full-length and had no sleeves! She fastened me up and explained it could be made-to-measure, adjusted to tea length and have three-quarter sleeves fitted. I looked at myself and felt fantastic. My mum grinned and I had a little tear! That was it. It was ivory satin – so rich and so many sumptuous folds of gorgeous material! It had a little belt with a sparkly diamante square buckle, a fitted bodice with a sweetheart neckline and a net top with tiny sparkles on. I had so many lovely compliments. Angie and her team and Sonya, the seamstress were absolutely incredible and made me feel like a 1940s film star on my day!

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (39)

I wanted my hair setting in a vintage style and so booked the amazing Ewa Baberska, hair and makeup artist, to finish the look. Suzie Taylor was my makeup artist and she was great. I wanted a very natural look as I don’t wear much and she did exactly that, yet made me look fab.

For my headpiece I also wanted something vintage and had met Kaye Hannabuss of Kaye Hannabus Textiles at a networking meeting. We got chatting and I asked her if she would be able to make me something. She made me a fabulous vintage-inspired headpiece with a birdcage veil, a smartie base and a bow. For the evening, she made me a gorgeous hair slide with beads and pearls and diamante. Kaye works with Harris Tweed and so Chris was interested in talking to her about his and Holly’s waistcoats.

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (9)

Chris hates suits (we said on our invitations that men weren’t required to wear them) and wanted to wear something he loved. This is where Kaye came in again, making him a bespoke Harris tweed waistcoat with rust shot silk back and satin lining. He teamed it with blue moleskin trousers from HebTroCo, a white brushed cotton shirt from Gandys of London, a hand-felted hat from Shevlin Millinery of Dublin bought at Cow Lane Gallery and brown leather boots from Jones the Bootmakers.

Jess, Chris’ eldest daughter and my bridesmaid, got her dress from LindyBop. It was an aubergine vintage dress with box pleats and her shoes were from New Look. Bethany, my eldest niece, wore a deep red velvet dress and shoes from Lindybop. Lydia, my youngest niece, wore a purple dress with a black netting top with a petticoat from PrettyKitty and shoes from Clarks. Holly, Chris’ youngest daughter and his best woman, wore a matching fitted waistcoat with a burgundy silk back, a shirt and shoes from New Look and trousers from TK Maxx.

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (6)

Our photographer was Kate McCarthy. Oh my goodness, Kate is amazing! She took the photos for a friend of mine’s wedding last summer and I really liked her style. We had chatted briefly on Facebook but then ended up being opposite each other at a wedding fair at Victoria Baths (I own Vintage Afternoon Teas) – we got chatting and laughed lots, got on really well and decided to book. We met up with Kate beforehand to say what we wanted – non-traditional photos, no groups, no formality. Kate suggested – no, insisted (much, initially, to Chris’ chagrin) – that she have ten minutes on her own with us and I am so glad because she took the most incredible shots of us which we will treasure forever. She’s brilliant.

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (29)

Our flowers were from the fabulous Ali and Bec at Diddibox Flowers in Sale. I chatted with Bec and found we knew quite a few mutual people in the ‘vintage world’ and they really understood what I wanted. The flowers were a relaxed handtied bouquet that included Anemones, Ranunculus, Tulips, Skimmia, Scabious Seed Heads, Rosemary, Sweet William and Tree Fern. We also had tealights and candles everywhere and big light-up letters from The Word Is Love. I’ve called Chris ‘Mr O’ since we met and when we got engaged, I was nicknamed ‘Mrs O2B’ so we thought it would be a nice touch to get letters saying ‘Mr & Mrs O’. Suzy and Ollie were fab!

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (18)

We wanted a natural cake, nothing too fussy, so chose a naked wedding cake. Our great friend Roshni Latham is an amazing baker and offered to make it for us as a wedding present. It was a two-tier lemon and ginger sponge with buttercream icing and decorated with berries. It was absolutely delicious and went down a storm!

We didn’t want a traditional sit-down menu and asked people to sit wherever they wanted. Chris loves pie so for our meal we had pie, chips and peas. Everyone was delighted and said they were the best pies ever! Then we had sticky toffee pudding and blackberry and apple crumble with lashings of custard.

Later on, it was my turn. I love cheese, so we had a cheese cake garnished with grapes, celery, quince jelly and lots of crackers. It went down extremely well as everyone had worked up an appetite dancing.

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (35)

For entertainment, we wanted something quirky. Chris had been on the Folk Train from Manchester to Bury and had seen Dr Butler’s Hatstand Medicine Band. He thought they were fantastic so we booked them for when the champagne and canapes were being served. They are great guys, very relaxed and so entertaining to watch and listen to. We then booked The Retrosettes – a fantastic five-piece band who do covers but with a retro feel. They had everyone dancing all night and we all had a ball!

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (58)

The Belle Epoque was just perfect and we would recommend them to anyone. You can stay in one of their seven rooms and they also own the pub next door where there are nine rooms. It’s a great pub where your guests can meet before the wedding. In short, it’s unusual, it’s boutique and you have the whole venue to yourselves. It almost feels like having a party at someone’s house. The staff are amazing – John and Al were particularly fabulous. They accommodate your every need – oh, and it looks fantastic too!

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (36)

My top moment was coming into the room, seeing everyone there waiting for me and smiling and then seeing Chris at the top, beaming. And, of course, saying ‘I do’! Chris’ was the actual getting-married bit, closely followed by the pie!

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (55)

After the wedding, we had a minimoon in Rome for four nights. We wanted to go to a lovely city with plenty to do and see and we love Italy. In May we’re going to Kassiopi in Corfu. We’ll stay in a lovely villa and we’ve hired an open top jeep to whizz around the island in.

A Vintage Wedding at The Belle Epoque (c) Kate McCarthy Photography (37)

My top tip to other Brides Up North would be to look at your partner and not the vicar or registrar when you’re saying your vows. Really listen to the words and what they mean. Also, read Brides Up North and get to one of the wedding fairs! I’ve actually exhibited at one of the Brides Up North fairs at the Bowdon Rooms, so I know what a great help the team are to people – as a supplier and a bride! I looked at the website for ideas on flowers and bridesmaids’ dresses and how rooms/venues were dressed and found it really helpful.

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about the author

Laura McDonagh
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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