Charlotte Balbier
Brides Up North Wedding Fairs

always. bespoke susanna greening for a vintage wedding in the countryside – suzi & sam

May 3rd, 2017 | Laura McDonagh

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (56)

You have been warned: today’s real wedding is all about the emotion. Talented bridal designer and seamstress Suzi lost her beloved mum to cancer a few months before her planned September wedding. The world shifted on its axis; everything was cancelled.

The following year, with the help of husband-to-be Sam and a close alliance of family and friends, Suzi found a way to plan a vintage wedding that was both a fun and poignant celebration of their love, with plenty of fitting tributes to her mum.

The end result, we think you’ll agree, is a wonderfully joyous, vintage-inspired big day with lots of laidback homespun vibes. Get ready for the goosebumps: this is wedding inspo at its glorious best.

With images by Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (29)

suzi says: Sam proposed in December 2014 under our first Christmas tree in our own home, with his grandmother’s beautiful sapphire and diamond ring which he‘d concealed in a bauble! A few weeks later, having been such a presence throughout Sam’s life, she passed away. I feel so honoured to have been given her beautiful engagement ring and so happy that she knew he‘d asked me to marry him.

We got married on 30th August 2016. It was actually second time lucky! We had originally booked and planned our wedding for September 21st 2015 – however, due to my mum passing away in May of that year, we decided to postpone it. My sister was really eager to get married (following two previous attempts!) so we put our wedding on the back burner and helped concentrate on giving Jo the brilliant day that she truly deserved despite our mum not being able to be with us all. We chose 30th August as it was the Tuesday after the bank holiday so it allowed our guests to have an extra-long bank holiday weekend.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (20)

We had our wedding ceremony in our local Methodist church in Matlock, Derbyshire. Our close friend Rachel did the address which was so personal and lovely and was definitely one of my favourite parts of the day. We asked some close friends to do readings – Polly read one of my mum’s favourite bible readings and Rosie read ‘He’s Not Perfect’ by Bob Marley.

We chose one of our favourite local pubs, The White Hart, to host our reception. They have a beautiful glass orangery and outside terrace and field. This worked perfectly as it was the most beautiful day! They were really flexible with all our requests, and as I was doing so much myself, I was happy to put my trust in our wedding coordinator, Emily, who accommodated all our requirements brilliantly.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (15)

While trying to plan the wedding, I lost one of the most important people in my life. My wonderful mum was diagnosed with a rare form of bowel cancer four years ago. We were adamant she was going to fight it and stood by her as she battled numerous operations, countless stints in hospital, different drugs and chemotherapy, trying to keep smiling and praying that it would soon all be a distant nightmare. However, it wasn’t to be, and in the winter of 2014 we were told that they were going to stop chemotherapy. We planned our wedding for the following September (2015) but sadly mum died in the May of that year. I was 26 and couldn’t believe that she was gone, that she wouldn’t be around for the rest of my life or to watch me marry Sam. It took me a while to get back to thinking about our wedding as I couldn’t imagine a day where Mum wouldn’t be there – it just didn’t feel right. Who was I going to call to discuss dresses and fabrics and all the little details that seem so important at the time? However, after a little time, we felt ready to start thinking about it; we decided to make it a day of fun and laidback celebration, including all of our amazing friends and family who had supported us on our difficult journey.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (42)

We didn’t really have any specific ‘theme’ as such; instead, we went for a summery, fresh and contemporary feel. We just wanted to stay true to ourselves and let the day represent us. Mine and Sam’s favourite colour is blue, so we had a loose blue colour theme for the day incorporating lots of white, touches of pink, grey and highlights of silver, too.

After finding the gorgeous fabric for my bridesmaids’ dresses – a blue floral with touches of pink, purples and grey – it became the main inspiration for our colours. I wanted to keep most things white and fresh so the bridesmaid fabric would make a real impact.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (23)

I work in fashion and run independent bespoke bridalwear business Susanna Greening Designs, so from the beginning I always knew I wanted to design and make my own wedding dress! With all my brides, I try to create a dress that makes them feel beautiful, confident and comfortable and I knew that I wanted to feel the same. I stumbled across a beautiful spot embroidered silk organza and I instantly knew that I would have to use it. I‘ve also always liked the idea of something to go from day to night, and so decided on a train with a high to low hem that tied round my waist in a bow so it could be removed later on in the day. There were a few personal touches I incorporated into my dress; I added a piece of fabric and lace from my mum’s wedding dress and embroidered the word ‘always’ so she would be with me on the day. As we had a bit of a blue theme, I also added a couple of blue buttons on my dress as my ‘something blue’.

I wore white Vivienne Westwood shoes with pearlised red hearts; I have a bit of a collection of these so it seemed only right for me to have some as my wedding shoes! And I had a pair of sparkly Kate Spade keds which I wore for the evening. I made a bow from my dress fabric to which I attached a mini-veil which my hairdresser, the wonderful Niamh from Gypsy Rose Salon, styled at the bottom of my amazing 60s-inspired beehive. Mine and my bridesmaids’ hair didn’t move an inch all day! I would totally recommend Niamh; she was fabulous!

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (27)

Another supplier who contributed to our day that I would highly recommend is Lauren from Little Joy Jewellery. As mentioned, Sam had given me his gorgeous grandmother’s engagement ring which is a dark blue sapphire surrounded with diamonds. When my mum passed away, I inherited her engagement ring which also happens to be sapphire and diamond so they go together perfectly. I struggled to find a wedding ring that I liked that would complement the style of my engagement ring. Then I had the idea of reworking some of mum’s old jewellery into my ring, which was when I discovered Little Joy Jewellery, who worked them into my stunning, unique ring. Lauren made Sam’s ring too, and she also worked some of mum’s diamonds into little hearts for my bridesmaids each stamped with their initial to be worn on a bracelet. My mum loved rainbows and so I had a rainbow charm made for me and my sister, and rainbow and heart cufflinks for my dad. For my 21st birthday Sam bought me a Tiffany necklace with two tiny hearts on it. My sister bought me the matching bracelet for my birthday before the wedding and so I had my rainbow and heart charm added to it to wear on the day along with a pair of Pandora heart earrings, which my mum had given me.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (39)

Sam’s chosen attire for the wedding was a beautiful steel blue Paul Smith Mainline slim-fit suit. He wanted a Peaky Blinders feel, so chose to accessorise with a Harris tweed waistcoat, flat cap and I a pocket watch which I had engraved with the date and ‘always’ as a gift for the wedding morning.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (1)

For my bridesmaids, I designed and created a collection of dresses that all had the same skirt shape but which all had unique top shapes designed individually for each girl as I wanted all the girls to feel comfortable. My adorable goddaughter Marni was our ‘mini-maid’; she had a dress in matching fabric and a silver star wand to carry and the most amazing sparkly shoes – they put mine to shame!

Sam’s best men and ushers wore grey or black suits and we gave the best men tweed waistcoats to compliment Sam’s. All the men and fathers of the bride and groom had sky blue ties with a tiny navy polka dot and a pair of blue socks, also from Paul Smith. My dad wore a navy blue suit and I made him a waistcoat from the same fabric as the bridesmaid’s dresses.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (3)

Our church is just down the road from where we live so on the day of the wedding, Sam and his groomsmen walked down there in the morning as it was such beautiful weather. I travelled to the church with my dad in his Jaguar. We used Sam’s car to travel from the church to the reception which he’d decorated with chalk pens the night before.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (5)

Neither Sam nor I are very good at being the centre of attention and so we were a bit nervous about having someone photograph us all day! We asked a couple of our friends, who are professional photographers, if they would be willing to do it. Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds aren’t wedding photographers but we wanted the pictures to be a bit different and have a more casual feel to them. We felt really comfortable with them; it made such a difference having someone there who knew us and our situation.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (45)

Flower-wise, we were very lucky as my cousin, Libby Pearson, is a really talented freelance florist and so she created our beautiful bouquets and buttonholes and even a little corsage for Marni. I’m really not green fingered at all; I just asked for a bouquet of blues and whites mainly centred around hydrangeas which are one of my favourite flowers. I trusted Libby completely and the results were incredible.

We kept the decoration of the church and venue quite minimal. My crafty friend Emily and I made hundreds of tulle pom poms of all sizes which we had hanging from the ceiling of the reception venue and scattered around the tables. I made ribbon bunting on the backs of the chairs and I stitched table numbers from the bridesmaid fabric with silver thread and displayed them on the table in silver frames.

One of our friends, Jonathan Abbot, is a highly skilled glass blower at Lumsdale Glass so together we designed some truly beautiful vases for the table centrepieces. We filled them with flowers and used them as thank you gifts at the end of the day.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (48)

Sam and I worked together to design our stationery. The invitations, save the dates and order of services were all stitched together with silver thread as a nod to my sewing roots. My bridesmaid Carly and I collected and dried hundreds of petals which were put into our handmade confetti bags. Sam also decorated hangers for mine and the bridesmaid dresses with our names and the date of the wedding etc.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (41)

For our favours we gave everyone a labelled bag of sweets and for the kids we provided colouring books and a box of crayons to keep them entertained during the speeches! We also provided sparklers for the evening for people to use once it got dark.

Our friend Zoe made our amazing cake, which was perfect pink ombré inside. Sam’s mum made an adorable cake topper of me and Sam and our miniature bull terrier, Reef. My bridesmaid Carly made brownies and tiffin so we had a brownie tower, which worked really well.

We had pie and chips for our main meal on Sam’s insistence; the food at The White Hart is excellent and one of the reasons we chose the venue. We opted for a barbecue in the evening, which was perfect for a summer’s day – everyone said how great the food was! We also had mini scones and Kir Royales to welcome people to the reception.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (57)

My maid of honour was in charge of the music and created an awesome playlist for the reception. We chose September by Earth Wind and Fire for our first dance as our original wedding date was 21st September.

As a special touch, we used blank white skateboards for people to sign as our guest book as a nod to Sam’s skater roots, which we now have on display at home.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (44)

Following our wedding, I would definitely recommend The White Hart to other couples; it’s a great space and very versatile with the orangery and the field at the back. We also got to stay in the honeymoon suite the night of our wedding, and quite a lot of our family stayed over which lovely as we all got to have breakfast together the following morning. Emily was fantastic and tried to accommodate all our needs perfectly and the running of the day went very smoothly, I felt I could have fun and relax and trust them perfectly to keep things ticking along as planned!

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (16)

Looking back, one of my favourite parts of the day was Sam’s speech; he’s not one for public speaking, but did me so proud. It was such a surprise and such a lovely and witty speech.

A few of my friends also surprised me with beautiful, touching gifts. My friend Leah, who was unable to make the wedding, gave me a charm that was one of my favourite pictures of my mum to tie round my bouquet. My bridesmaid Carly gave me a couple of sixpence coins for my shoe from 1951, the year my mum was born.

A Vintage Countryside Wedding (c) Luke Whiteley and Dean Hammonds (55)

After the wedding, we went to Canada on our honeymoon. We planned a rocky mountain road trip flying to Calgary, then on to Banff, across to Golden, then up to Jasper before working our way back down to Banff and then to Calgary to fly home. We had the most amazing time and didn’t waste a second! We loved exploring all the different areas and lakes and spotting some fantastic wildlife, we both fell in love with the country and will definitely be planning trips to return in the future!

My top tip for other Brides Up North is – be true to yourselves and plan your day your way. Don’t get caught up in the details and try and enjoy every minute as it flies by! Don’t do things because it’s ‘expected’ or ‘tradition’. Do things you want to and make it a day that represents you as a couple.

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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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