Charlotte Balbier
Brides Up North Luxury Wedding Shows Spring 2017

polka dots & petals. a bespoke gown for a relaxed wedding at the ashes – alexe & declan

May 8th, 2017 | Rachel Parry

A Rustic Wedding in Staffordshire (c) Deborah Stone Photography (43)

We’re continuing to ease you into the week with this wonderfully relaxed real wedding in beautiful rural Staffordshire.

In keeping with their choice of rustic venue, Alexe and Declan planned a laidback and fun day for their guests with nods to their passions and interests carefully built in.

Fine attire was high up on both the bride and groom’s agenda, with Declan and his groomsmen sporting herringbone tweed suits from a London tailor, and Alexe having her beautiful vintage style dress made bespoke in Sheffield.

Now, over to Alexe for all the details…

With images by Deborah Stone Photography.

A Rustic Wedding in Staffordshire (c) Deborah Stone Photography (34)

alexe says: We got engaged in Barcelona, on an Easter mini-break in April 2014. Declan had booked the holiday as a surprise, which he told me about on Valentine’s Day, but I had no idea of his intentions!

Our wedding date was 30th March 2016 – a Wednesday, and just after the Easter bank holiday, just to be awkward! I’m a teacher so it was in the first week of the school holidays and then we had our honeymoon during the second week. I originally dreamt of a summer wedding, but realistically, the price of the venue was more reasonable in March and we both decided that a spring wedding would be lovely, as we couldn’t rely on the good old British weather to be good in the summer so if we did have good weather in March it would be a bonus. In the end, we had a beautiful sunny start to the day, a wee bit of rain during the drinks reception and some snow in the late afternoon during the wedding breakfast.

A Rustic Wedding in Staffordshire (c) Deborah Stone Photography (38)

We got married at The Ashes, a barn venue in Staffordshire, near Leek. We found it while we were Googling alternative wedding venues. It instantly appealed to us as it has the most beautiful grounds and a lake and also the team give you the freedom to decorate the venue as you wish and tailor the day to exactly how you want it. From the very first visit, we felt that the staff would do their best to make everything right for us. Something that really attracted me was that you could arrange the seats in the ceremony barn in an arc setting, so it was more cosy and intimate and everyone could hear what was going on. Another important thing was that you could provide your own drinks with no corkage charge, which meant that we gradually collected booze in order to spread the cost. The only downside was that we did end up with a house full of booze just before the wedding, but we couldn’t drink any of it! Luckily, the venue returned the booze that was not used on the day, so we benefited then!

We didn’t really have a wedding theme as such, but with The Ashes being a rural barn venue we wanted the day to be laidback and fun.

We didn’t consciously choose a colour scheme either, but with the Tour de France bunting (green, yellow and red polka dot) and my parents’ teapots, we ended up with springy greens and yellows as our colour palette.

A Rustic Wedding in Staffordshire (c) Deborah Stone Photography (12)

My wedding dress was made by the super talented Kate Beaumont. I Googled vintage wedding dresses in Sheffield and her website popped up. Kate is lovely and also turned out to be really patient when I changed my idea of what I actually wanted and then decided to join Slimming World six months before the wedding and lost two stone, and four inches off my waist!

The dress was gold silk with polka dot lace over the bodice and lace with a repeated scallop pattern over the skirt. Having my wedding dress made was one of the loveliest experiences ever, it made it so personal and unique! I felt so wonderful in it and so comfortable.

I my headpiece was by Amanda Moon, who is also based in Sheffield. Amanda is also a super lovely lady and my rose and honeysuckle floral piece made me feel super feminine and glamorous and I try to wear it at every available opportunity!

On my feet, I wore floral pink Dr Marten boots, which I am very proud of! I have such problematic feet, that I decided to just wear something comfy and I had happy feet all day and danced all night!

A Rustic Wedding in Staffordshire (c) Deborah Stone Photography (18)

Declan and the groomsmen wore herringbone tweed suits from Jennis and Warman, based in London. All the measurements were sent off and although I worried about them not fitting I believe only one suit had to be returned for a resizing but that groomsman kept the problem on the down-low so as not to stress me out unnecessarily, which I appreciated!

My bridesmaids wore dresses by Louche from Joy. It was my mum who spotted them and I think she was quite pleased that I approved! They were baby blue satin, with a chiffon outer layer with flowers printed on it.

A Rustic Wedding in Staffordshire (c) Deborah Stone Photography (49)

Sheffield-based Deborah Stone was our photographer, recommended by my mum. She was so lovely and met me and Declan beforehand and we discussed the sort of photographs we wanted. She had also worked at The Ashes before, so she knew the all the best photo spots! I would definitely recommend her, she is reasonably priced, efficient and our photos are beautiful, everyone remarks on how lovely they are!

A Rustic Wedding in Staffordshire (c) Deborah Stone Photography (25)

When it came to the flowers, we approached a couple of florists in Sheffield, but as we were getting married after a bank holiday, we were worried about getting the flowers delivered to the venue. We then contacted Possibilities Florist in Leek, and Meg said another couple from Sheffield had the very same problem before and they had provided the flowers. Meg was brilliant, she completely reassured me and really listened to what we wanted in flowers and buttonholes. We had beautiful pink ranunculus and blue muscari in the bouquets, to mirror my headpiece and the bridesmaid dresses, and the buttonholes all contained thistle and eucalyptus and were beautiful!

Me and my mum made Tour de France bunting to decorate the wedding breakfast barn as Declan and I both love cycling (I like to watch, Declan actually cycles!) and we chose teapots from my parents’ collection to display as table centrepieces. We bought succulents and cacti to put in the teapots from a local garden centre and a florist local to our house provided some flowers that we made into our own arrangement for the ceremony barn.

A Rustic Wedding in Staffordshire (c) Deborah Stone Photography (30)

We shamelessly stole our wedding favour ideas from our friends’ wedding – as it was around Easter, we bought mini eggs and assembled cardboard boxes and filled them with shredded paper to make them like a nest.

We decided on a savoury wedding cake quite early on in the planning process, to contribute to our evening buffet food. We initially thought of three tiers of cheese, but then decided to get a two-tier pork pie and added a tier of Manchego cheese on the top (I’m a Spanish teacher – I was determined to get some Spanishness in there somewhere!) We soon found Bev’s Bakery, based just outside Stoke, and we collected it ourselves the day before the wedding. We decorated it with sprigs of rosemary from our garden and served it with a bottle of Henderson’s Relish (Hendo’s is made in Sheffield) and a jar of my dad’s chutney. Assembling the cake was lots of fun for the whole family the day before the wedding!

Our wedding breakfast was taken care of by Jenkinsons Caterers, who were fabulous, nothing was too much trouble and the food was delicious! We had mini fish and chip cones as canapés during the drinks reception, which went down very well. To start our wedding breakfast we had a choice of goat’s cheese salad with walnut and fig flatbread or ratatouille tart, then for mains we had lamb or stuffed chicken wrapped in parma ham and then pudding was either mint brioche bread and butter pudding (with mint green custard – it was brilliant!) or pear and ginger crumble. The caterers were so brill that they gave my lactose intolerant dad a massive bowl of dairy free ice cream (which we were all a bit tempted to nick!) It was lovely to offer people a choice of food, but in hindsight sorting out everyone’s orders was a teensy bit stressful!

To drink, we had prosecco for the ladies and Thornbridge (a Bakewell brewery) beer for the gents (although a lot of ladies got in on the beer as it was strawberry flavoured and called ‘I Love You Will You Marry Me?’) We got our wine from Naked Wines and my brother bought us our prosecco and toast champagne from Lidl.

A Rustic Wedding in Staffordshire (c) Deborah Stone Photography (41)

For our evening entertainment, we had a brilliant band that we booked entirely on the strength of their quirky cover version of No Diggity by Blackstreet. They are called The Task, based in Stoke, and I’d really recommend them! In my first email to them I made it very clear that I did not want to hear any Bon Jovi or Bryan Adams and when they replied and said they would never play that sort of thing, I knew that they were our band! They were so lovely to deal with and there were no hidden costs and the dancefloor was packed all night, which was exactly what we wanted!

One thing that we really wanted to have a massive say in was the music during the day and The Ashes encouraged us to choose the music, so we lovingly crafted an iPod playlist of songs we both love, which included lots of 90s Britpop, noughties electronica and a bit of soul and Motown. We played this throughout the drinks reception and wedding breakfast – no way were we putting up with Michael Bublé or Celine Dion! Also, Declan wasn’t too keen on the idea of making a speech, but I did manage to convince him that he would be fine and so he got up in front of 90 people and made a speech – I was so proud that he did it! His best man didn’t make a speech, but his mum did and so did I (no one was particularly surprised that I had things to say!)

A Rustic Wedding in Staffordshire (c) Deborah Stone Photography (39)

The other very important suppliers we used were my brother and his partner who are both hairdressers. They were blooming wonderful on the day and did my hair, my bridesmaids, our mums, my auntie and my cousin, and only just had enough time to get themselves into their suits! I don’t think my brother is thinking of expanding into doing wedding hair any time soon!

Also, I must mention the jeweller who made our wedding jewellery, James Garland-Taylor. He’s based in Hope in the Peak District, and made our wedding rings, my bracelet, necklace and earrings, and also cufflinks for Dec.A Rustic Wedding in Staffordshire (c) Deborah Stone Photography (29)

Following our wedding, I cannot recommend The Ashes enough! They are so lovely, so supportive and so in control, nothing was too much trouble, they always answered questions really quickly and they just made the day run so smoothly. Our event manager Jayne was lovely, so experienced and very calming on the day when I realised we didn’t have any prosecco in the bridal preparation rooms she sorted us out with one from our stash, which really made me giggle.

I loved the whole day, but I remember being really overwhelmed when I walked into the ceremony barn with my dad and my bridesmaids – I was so shocked to see a full barn of people, even though I’d invited them all! Just seeing all our lovely friends and family brought a tear to my eye but luckily my mother-in-law was on hand with the tissues! We had two readings done by friends, one of which was ‘I Wanna be Yours’ by John Cooper Clarke, which stopped the tears, thank goodness!

After the wedding, we had two nights in our wedding cottage by ourselves, then travelled down to London and flew out to Naples for a week. It was absolutely beautiful, we had a lovely hotel just near the central train station and had days out on the Isle of Capri, walking up Vesuvius, visiting Pompeii and the Herculaneum and got the train to Sorrento one day. We had so much fun, ate so much wonderful food and drank loads of fab wine.

There are so many tips I can think of to pass onto other Brides Up North, but I think the most important is don’t go for a venue unless you both absolutely love it and can imagine yourselves getting married there. Also, make sure you get as many things your way as you can – don’t be afraid to do things your way, after all, it’s your day and it should reflect you as a couple, so if you want to wear Docs and have a pork pie instead of a cake, just do it!

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about the author

Rachel Parry
Rachel joined the Brides Up North editorial team as Features Editor in February 2015. Rachel draws on her news reporting background, experience in features, bridal & lifestyle editing for previous regional titles and time spent working for Yorkshire’s most successful PR agencies. Yet to tie the knot herself, Rachel's own wedding looks set to be very, very pretty...

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