June 30th, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth
It’s holiday season here on the blog, and as the editorial team take a short break, we’ll be leaving you with a reduced blogging schedule so that you still get your daily dose of wedding lovely. Usual service will recommence on Monday 3rd July 2017 but in the meantime watch out for recaps of some of our favourite Real Weddings from the first half of the year so far.
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We love a happy ending at Brides Up North and today’s wedding proves that good things definitely come to those who wait.
After postponing their original wedding date to welcome baby number one and subsequently baby number two together, Gemma and Iain finally tied the knot in 2016 surrounded by their little ones.
Cue some rather special moments, their elegant wedding is set against the charming backdrop of Cave Castle Hotel and Country Club near Hull, complete with original turrets, historic features and picture-perfect meadows.
With images by Jo Bradbury.
gemma says: We got engaged on 3rd April 2010 (the day after Iain’s birthday) in Paris – our favourite city! Iain planned a romantic surprise trip which (unbeknown to me) included a variety of ideal proposal spots, just in case one didn’t go to plan. Iain settled on proposing while we were enjoying an evening fine dining boat trip (Bateaux Parisiens) along the River Seine. He popped the question as we sailed past the Notre Dame, arranging for my beautiful ring to be placed in the bottom of my champagne glass. I was totally shocked but, of course, said yes!
We originally planned to get married on 25th August 2012. However, that January, I discovered I was expecting our first child. With a due date of 5th September, we were forced to cancel our wedding. Given we’d been planning the wedding since our engagement, this was an upsetting decision to make, but in hindsight, this was absolutely the right thing to do as Noah (our son), and his sister Ivy (who arrived two years later) – along with William, Iain’s eldest son aged 12 – were around to be at our wedding. It felt wonderful and humbling that they could be part of our amazing day and share our experience. As a family unit, it made us totally complete.
Our wedding was rescheduled in May 2015 to take place in 2016. We entered a social media competition to win a wedding at Cave Castle Hotel & Country Club but unfortunately did not win. Following this we were sent a wedding brochure from the venue and decided to go and take a look. On visiting Cave Castle we both fell in love with the venue, its character and what it had to offer us for our special day. The wedding coordinator Lynda, instantly made us feel welcomed with her friendly, knowledgeable and professional approach.
Cave Castle has two separate venue rooms and we loved the The Balmoral Suite because of its long row of beautiful windows which created a light airy and warm feel in the room, with beautiful views over the castle grounds and lake. Given its simple elegance, we knew this venue was perfect for adding our own touches. After further discussions with Lynda around dates, we decided on a summer wedding on 26th August 2016.
Our chosen wedding theme was ‘vintage elegance’. Our aim was to create an elegant feel using hints of champagne and rose gold but present these in a relaxed manner to complement the grounds and the desired atmosphere we wanted to create within the room.
I actually have two wedding dresses! My original wedding dress was purchased in 2010. When I tried it on again in 2016, I decided to purchase a new one as the original dress had naturally dated in style and my body shape had also changed after having two children. I ended up buying a Mori Lee gown. Initially, I was a little uncertain about the dress as it needed slight alterations. However, I went to a recommended dressmaker, Lynn, who transformed the dress to fit me like a glove! I absolutely cannot thank her enough for making me feel like a princess!
From the early stages of planning, Iain had his heart set on a sharp navy colour theme for himself and his groomsmen. He had been drawn to a more modern style of suit in a slim fit style. However, after trying on an abundance of different suits, he opted for a slim fit traditional morning style suit with tail coat. His two sons wore identical suits too. All of the groomsmen and page boy suits were hired from Debenhams.
I knew from the start I wanted full length dresses for my bridesmaids in preferably a pastel or blush pink. The dresses – which came within budget from AX Paris – were a winner as all of my very different bridesmaids loved them and looked amazing.
I decided to stay over the evening before the wedding at Cave Castle with my four bridesmaids (my two sisters, Leanne and Holly, and my two best friends, Kirsty and Katie) and another close friend (Zoe). Zoe is a designer by trade and she helped me enormously to develop my own personalised wedding stationery and additional venue decorations. The wedding was at 12.30pm and it was amazing to get settled the night before. My generous husband-to-be paid for me, my bridesmaids, and Zoe to stay over at the venue the evening before, and for us to enjoy a three-course meal. This enabled me to spend some quality time with my girls prior to the big day ahead. After all the stress of wedding planning, it was exactly what I needed.
Iain arrived at the venue in an Aston Martin DB9 Vantage I’d arranged as a wedding day surprise, courtesy of a friend of a dear friend who happened to own one!
Our photographer was the very talented Jo Bradbury based in Manchester. We had spent hours researching a photographer as we had clear ideas of the style of photography we most liked. Jo’s style appeared to be everything we were looking for and so I was delighted when she said she was free. Our first meeting with Jo only served to reaffirm just how super talented she is and I left feeling so excited about her being there to share and photograph our special day. She really is amazing at what she does and in all honestly, she felt like part of the wedding party all day.
Our florist was Elizabeth Jayne of Rose and River Floral based in Halifax. She was recommended to me by my friend Zoe after she did an amazing job at Zoe’s wedding the previous year. Liz is a wonderful lady who is extremely knowledgeable in the flower field. I gave her a specific colour theme and yet I still couldn’t have dreamed up just how beautiful my bouquet was. Liz added her own twist to my bouquet by adding mentha roses (roses that are in a very pale creamy grey shade) and they were definitely my highlight! They were stunning and are so unusual. They are absolutely my favourite flower now!
My bridesmaids all carried a posy of gypsophila and I had a mini bouquet made for my daughter, Ivy that was identical to mine. This was such a beautiful touch.
For the table centrepieces and ceremony tables I opted for small vases in champagne and rose gold which were filled with a mix of ivory and muted pink/blush roses, astria, astilbe, stocks, white freesias and lisianthus. Foliage included olive, eucalyptus and fresh herbs from Liz’s garden.
The arrival of the flowers, and specifically my bouquet, was such a special moment. When I saw them I filled up with so much emotion. They were beautiful beyond my wildest dreams and I remember thinking, wow this is really happening.
Instead of typical chairs and chair covers, we opted for hiring chiavari chairs from a reputable agency, You Can Hire. The chairs looked amazing and added to our elegant theme.
We didn’t have favours but my friend Zoe helped me put together champagne gold wooden hearts which she then very neatly wrote everyone’s names on. These were used as an alternative to name cards and most guests took theirs home. One guest even told me she and her partner put them on their Christmas tree as personalised decorations.
Our cake was a very special present from Iain’s mum Pauline, who made all three cakes herself, decorating them all by hand. Pauline used our colour theme perfectly. I was very moved by the coal hand crafted cat she put on top of one of the tiers. We cannot thank her enough.
We chose a fairly typical wedding menu, with a tomato and basil soup for starter, sliced roast beef, potatoes and seasonal vegetables for main, and a strawberry cheesecake for dessert. I was so wrapped up in the excitement and emotions of the day, I remember eating very little. However, many of the guests thanked us afterwards and commented on how lovely the food was.
In terms of entertainment, for the ceremony we arranged for the very talented singer Bethany Hare to perform. Bethany sang all three of our ceremony songs which sounded amazing and added an emotional touch. Following the ceremony, while the formal photographs were taken, Bethany entertained our guests out on the lawn by singing a mixture of jazz and contemporary songs which were fabulous and created a real feel-good celebratory atmosphere.
The evening wedding entertainment was somewhat of a surprise to me as we had agreed prior that we would only have a DJ. However, Iain surprised me on the day with a band called Mission Bay who played our first dance song Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud before going on to play a good mix of floor filler songs.
Given our own children and the many nieces and nephews we have between us, we both felt it important that we accommodated the children within our day. We put all the older children (eight years and over) on a table by themselves, which had multiple age appropriate toys and traditional games (yoyos, playing cards, colouring, tiddly-winks, etc) on it. This was a big risk (ten kids on one table!) but it absolutely paid off. The children loved the independence and their parents could enjoy themselves too, whilst still having their children in sight.
For our younger guests, who sat with their parents, we prepared individual gift bags with children’s colouring, a small doll for the girls and play cars for the boys. In addition, all the younger girls are baby doll lovers and so I set up a ‘Baby Station’ with prams, highchair and carry cases for them to play with their dolls.
Instead of a traditional guest book we opted for a guest mirror. I managed to pick up a large antique mirror in a local charity shop and bought black marker pens. We then asked each guest to write a message on it for us. This now has pride of place in our house.
We would certainly recommend our choice of venue to other couples. The staff at Cave Castle – in particular Mehmet and Leanne – were all extremely efficient, helpful, professional and put us at ease. All of the staff involved in our special day were very friendly and strove to meet our every need. Mehmet was very supportive and helped me keep my pre-ceremony emotions in check by making me laugh! He prevented me from walking down the aisle looking like a panda!
Iain says that the highlight from the day was most definitely the ceremony and the emotional moment, when he turned to see me walking down the aisle – he thought, “I must be the luckiest man on the planet!”
I have to agree with Iain that the ceremony was also my favourite part of the day. Second to this was the time we had together during the wedding breakfast. Opting for a slightly unusual sweetheart table gave us the perfect opportunity to have time out together sharing a glass of champagne whilst taking in the emotions of our perfect day.
We really struggled with table planning as we have three sets of parents between us. We opted for a rather untraditional sweetheart table for the head table seating and this is something we would recommend to other Brides Up North. We had our reservations about this but with hindsight I’m so happy we did it this way. For most of the wedding breakfast we were alone and able to enjoy one another’s company on our perfect day. This not only gave us time together (generally a rarity on your wedding day), but it also enabled us to take in the day and the importance of the wedding for us as a family. It was perfect and we would not change a thing.
Our first ‘familymoon’ was spent in Gran Canaria with our three children, followed by a very romantic ‘child-free’ four-night stay in Venice. Venice was truly stunning and a place like no other. The time alone was a welcomed change to the hectic but fun filled week away with the children.
Our top tip to other Brides Up North would be just relax, enjoy the day and don’t stress about everything being perfect or not quite the way you had intended, more important than anything else – you’re there to marry the love of your life!
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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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