May 24th, 2017 | Laura McDonagh
The sun may be shining outside, but for today’s real wedding we’re focusing on an elegant Christmassy affair, perfect for those of you in the midst of planning a classy winter wedding.
Sophie and Callum were wed at the stylish and striking Matfen Hall in Northumberland – sold to Sophie on the basis of its jaw-dropping entrance staircase for the bride’s grand arrival.
This gorgeous couple opted for an elegant celebrity-styled vibe with black and white tuxedos, a Cinderella-esque princess gown and luxe favours. They also remained true to themselves, however, with their favourite chocolate Krispie slices transformed into the wedding cake of their dreams.
Sophie balanced big spends with some judicious bargain-hunting, and making savings on details like her dress helped her budget for big splurges – like a visit from some real-life reindeer. Yes, you read right – real-life reindeer!
So, sit back readers and enjoy Sophie’s gorgeous winter’s tale.
With images by Philip Ryott.
sophie says: We got engaged on Callum’s 21st birthday. It was the night before we flew to Dubai for two weeks and I’d booked a stay at Jesmond Dene House with a surprise afternoon tea with our parents.
Callum seemed nervous and, just as we were having tea, a couple had came in with the wedding planner. I commented, “Aw, how sweet! They’re planning their wedding!” Everyone suddenly seemed keen to change the subject, which I thought was a bit strange but didn’t think too much of it.
After our parents left we went back to the hotel room for a bath and to get dressed for dinner. Callum was looking at me with so much love throughout the evening and it was a gorgeous night. After we came back to our room, he suggested going onto the balcony and drinking some champagne. I agreed and went to get comfy – taking off my makeup and getting into my dressing gown – whereas Callum stayed in his suit and waistcoat!
I went back out to the balcony and he was sitting there with champagne looking gorgeous. He spoke to me under the moonlight and went back over all our special memories of early dates, fancying each other in school and holidays we’d been on. Then he said, “You know, I’m 21 today. I’m officially a man. I’ve got something to ask you”. I couldn’t contain my emotions and started to cry as he got down on one knee and asked me if I would do him the honour of becoming his wife. It was so beautiful, emotional and personal – and, of course, I said yes!
We were married on Thursday 1st December 2016. We chose this date because I loved the idea of a magical Christmas wedding – what better day than the 1st December?! It’s the start off the official countdown to Christmas, everyone is in good spirits, Christmas music can officially be played and, of course, advent calendars!
We were married at the gorgeous Matfen Hall. I heard someone say that of all the venues they’d been to, Matfen Hall had the grandest entrance for the bride – so I had to check it out!
As soon as we entered the Great Hall we got goosebumps and a sense of ‘this is it.’ It has a traditional church-like atmosphere with its high ceilings and stained glass windows; you definitely get the feeling that a lot of beautiful things have happened there over its history. I loved the staircase entrance, too – I mean, wow! What a statement! I had real nerves walking down there to greet everyone but the excitement and anticipation was just amazing.
The Matfen Hall team were incredible, especially Victoria Paterson (wedding planner) and Peter Dawson (master of ceremonies). Their hard work and care to every detail, enquiry and question was just outstanding. Such down-to-earth, lovely, lovely people who went so far beyond their role. I can’t thank or praise them enough.
We chose to have an elegant winter wedding theme with a Christmassy touch. I wanted the colour-scheme, decor, favours, chairs, tables – everything, really – to be very classy – with whites, silvers and sparkles. My Christmas touch was brought to life with real reindeer from Santa’s Reindeer based in Birmingham! I’d never seen reindeer before and had always wanted to; I’ve always believed in their magic and what better day to see them than on your wedding day?
Of course, my family thought I was bonkers! But my mantra is, “You can’t put a price on memories!”
I also had a reindeer-themed seating plan made by my friend Shawnee Quinn, and the tables were named after Santa’s reindeer. We had advent calendars as favours and snowflakes for name cards and the children had mini Santa hats.
For my dress, I originally wanted a fitted, possibly mermaid-style, beaded gown and – like most brides – I ended up with the total opposite! The wedding dress outlet store WED2B had recently opened in Gateshead so we tried there first.
My cousin and matron of honour Kelly pulled out a dress that was totally different to what I’d said I wanted – it was plain and Cinderella-style. But when I saw it I just felt something. Then I tried it on and, well, wow. I felt like a real bridal princess, like all the Disney princesses in one; I couldn’t stop smiling! They added the veil and the embellished belt and I just knew. My mam and maid of honour (who’s like a brick when it comes to emotion!) started to cry. Later, my fantastic dressmaker Kayleen added a five-layer tulle train with crystals scattered along the back and sides.
My husband and his groomsmen rented their traditional Bond-like tuxedos from Moss Bros at the Royal Quays. They were great: very quick with alterations and a really decent price. They looked so smart! The tux fitted the elegant theme perfectly alongside my timeless Cinderella dress. It felt like a real celebrity-styled wedding!
I took a risk with my bridesmaids’ dresses and ordered them online! I wanted something not too expensive, elegant and wintery but ideally something they could wear again. I went for light ice blue dresses in a floaty chiffon with strapless bodices and delicate crystal and embroidery detailing and they were around £100 each. I ordered them in standard 8-10 sizes so they weren’t made to measure – this was an option, but I’d already decided to have them altered by my dressmaker. They looked gorgeous and fit perfectly afterwards.
My hair was tamed by the wonderful Victoria Noble and my makeup was thanks to the superb Sam Marley – both were outstanding, professional and have tonnes of talent and experience.
Our day was captured by Philip Ryott and his wife. Philip created a video, too. I’d definitely recommend Phil; he’s funny, down-to-earth and he likes his photos to tell a story. He’s also a perfectionist which is fantastic: he made sure the men didn’t have phones and wallets bulging in their pockets and he made sure my dress always looked beautiful. We got a lot of photos – Phil took around 3,000 and we got around 600 back, and our video.
He took some lovely natural shots, captured some real emotional moments, but also gathered everyone together swiftly for the group shots we wanted. Photographing a wedding must be pretty stressful but Phil was fantastic – and we found him at a Brides Up North wedding fair, so we can’t thank you enough!
We also had a Tomfoolery Photobooth in the evening – great fun and a great price.
One of my best friends from childhood has started her own floristry company – Sharon Findlay of Flowerlicious – and she provided the most beautiful flowers for the day. My bouquet consisted of peonies, roses and silver foliage and was stunning. My bridesmaids’ bouquets were the same with acorns added and the groomsmen all had white roses with berries and acorns. She also made a full bannister floral arrangement and long and low arrangements for the top table and the fireplace. She worked from 7am to make everything look magical and transformed the Great Hall into an even more memorable setting. As an extra special touch, she also made me four artificial replicas of the buttonholes to put on loved ones’ graves so we could make them part of the day. This was so thoughtful and appreciated.
With favours, I think I went overboard! But as a guest to wedding I’ve always appreciated the favours and wanted to make ours special. Everyone had an advent calendar to tie in with our theme, a mini vodka or gin, a bubble blower and a bridal/groom box with a special mini product inside, e.g. a Lancome lipgloss or mini Armani fragrance. My top table also had a personalised champagne flute for the women and a personalised pint glass for them men and a liquor. I also ordered silver title decorations to put on their napkin e.g. Mother of the Bride from VMBespoke.
We used Stuart Angus and Alexandra Hutchinson for our live music. Stuart is an incredible pianist and teacher and Alex has such a unique and delicate voice. They played and sang a beautiful version of Tom Odell’s Real Love for my entrance song
Our cake was so different! Neither Callum or I are big fans of sponge cake but we love chocolate Krispie slices. The amazing Lorraine and team at Lottie McPhee Cakes in Monkseaton created an incredible, mouth-watering, soft-centred, three-tier Krispie cake. We had ice blue and white snowflakes scattered down the side with a silhouette of two married penguins as our topper.
Looking back on our wedding, it’s impossible to pick a favourite moment of the day. I loved getting ready with my girls in the morning; it was so exciting! An emotional highlight was when my dad saw me for the first time. The look of love and pride in his face and mine was just a super-connecting moment. It really was indescribable – true and raw and once-in-a-lifetime.
There was also our first dance to Conor Maynard and Ebony May’s version of Chris Brown and Justin Bieber’s Next to You. It was like the rest of the world zoned out. We felt the room fill with love, our hearts beating as we danced together and listened to lyrics that spoke of the future we were starting together in that moment. Those few minutes summed up everything and more about life.
And, of course, the reindeers! I felt like all my dreams came true sitting in the sleigh with two beautiful soft and gentle animals leading us. It was just spectacular.
For our honeymoon, we went to Dubai. For the first four nights we stayed in the beautiful Zabeel Sarah on the palm. Then for our final two nights we stayed in the world’s only 7* hotel, the Burj Al Arab. We stayed on the ‘Best of the Burj’ package which included an 85 minute massage each, a six course meal in their Michelin-starred restaurant Al Mahara, a private butler and Rolls Royce transfers!
The food was out of this world. I’m not much of a fishy eater, except prawns and mussels, but we went to an underground/underwater seafood restaurant and the food was exquisite. We had the six-course chef’s recommendation menu and, even though I had no clue what half of the stuff was, it was incredible. We also met penguins at the Ski Dubai!
My top tip to other Brides Up North would be to give yourself enough time! You’ll be calm and organised and end up spending less if you give yourself time to look for things. Try eBay and shop around for little touches to express yourself and your personality.
Understand that on the day anything that could or does go wrong doesn’t matter. The emotion and love that overcomes you on that day can’t be ruined by anything.
We found it a rollercoaster of emotions. Don’t feel like you have to run around and catch up on everyone else’s day. I was doing this until my bridesmaids stopped me and said “Go dance. Have fun! Everyone’s okay!” Relax, take it all in, notice everything, hide away for a few minutes with your husband and enjoy the most incredible, love-filled, magical, dream-come-true day of your entire life.
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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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