October 12th, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth
The wonderful Owen House wedding barn in Cheshire provides the delightful backdrop to today’s beautiful nuptials between Fiona and James, who tied the knot back in May of this year.
With a dusty pastel palette, a classic red double decker bus and a floral bouquet that made the mother-of-the bride shed a tear or two – the couple’s rustic themed day has got us falling head over heels for an effortlessly chic barn wedding.
What we love best though is how the couple ‘tell their story’ through all their personal touches, from their wedding cake to their table names – and even Fiona’s special gift to James on their big day. It comes as no surprise to us that this is Fiona’s top tip for other brides-to-be, too!
With images by Paul Joseph Photography.
fiona says: We got engaged while we were living in London. James had secretly booked one of the treehouses at Chewton Glen on the south coast as a surprise getaway. He had intended to propose whilst we were there, but he got himself a little too excited so he popped the question in our bedroom whilst we were packing! He didn’t use many words, but the gestures were all there and he was down on one knee with a ring! I said yes – after asking whether he was sure!
We got married on Friday 19th May 2017. When we started looking for venues, we were set on a Saturday in the summer of 2017. However, we fell in love with Owen House and didn’t want to have to wait until 2018 to get married there, so chose a date entirely based on their availability. Having a Friday actually ended up quite useful, as we were able to set up on the Thursday afternoon. The venue is charming yet cheeky, elegant yet relaxed. The ceremony room with its lovingly carved wooden benches and twinkle lights has a real rustic beauty. I cried when we first saw it!
Vanessa, Dan and the rest of the family have created something truly special at Owen House. They work tirelessly to make sure your day runs like clockwork, and yet they make it look effortless. Nothing is ever too much trouble, no question is too silly.
Family and friends are really important to us, and we are fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of amazing people. We wanted to create a day that was personal and relaxed, without losing the gravity of the commitment we were making to each other.
We wanted quite a muted palette which lent itself to the rustic nature of the barn. We opted for pale pinks and dusty blues to create a relaxed romantic feel.
Although James and I have settled in Manchester, I am a Surrey girl. Since we were getting married in Cheshire, I wanted to get my dress from near my parent’s. I went to Chobham Bride in Chobham, Surrey, where I met the lovely Louise who spent a lot of time with me and helped me find the perfect fit. I was adamant that I didn’t want a strapless fishtail, but that’s exactly what I fell for in the end.
The dress I chose was from the Pronovias White One collection. The original dress had a high neck, which I had peeled back by Louise’s seamstress, Lucy, to reveal a sweetheart neckline. I then had an off the shoulder lace bolero made, to wear over the top. It was gorgeous, and was a dream to wear on the day.
James wore Ted Baker tails on the day, which he hired from Moss Bros on St Ann’s Square in Manchester. He opted for their Tales of the Unexpected range – a rich navy blue tailcoat suit with a vibrant peacock feather lining. It had James written all over it! He paired the suit with an ivory paisley waistcoat, a blue and pink tie and cravat, and fancy-pancy tan shoes by Barker.
When James and I first started dating, he rocked up to a date in a pair of Mr Happy socks. I joked that that moment was the nearest I had ever came to doubting my decision to date him! On the day, it seemed fitting to deliver him a pair of Mr Happy socks, which he dutifully wore.
The groomsmen wore the same tails as James but they had a navy waistcoat. They also wore tan shoes (apart from one – there’s always one!).
The bridesmaids’ dresses were by far the most difficult aspect of the wedding planning. In the end, I found them in David’s Bridal. They were long with a slit to the knee (controversial, but I don’t think many people noticed!); lace at the top with a belted waist which then fell away to the floor. I opted for them in pewter, which worked well with both the boys and the flowers.
We worked with Bec Armitage and Charlotte Dobson from Reubenwood Creatives for hair and makeup. I see Bec on a regular basis as she’s my hairdresser, so it was a comfort to know that she was in control on the day. All my bridesmaids loved her! Bec had recommended Charlotte, who also freelances at Reubenwood, as our make-up artist. They were a fab team and we had a really chilled out morning getting ready with them.
As transport, we hired a bus with Catch 22 Buses to take our guests and the groom’s party from Cottons Hotel (where many of our guests were staying) to Owen House Wedding Barn. The same bus picked us all up at the end of the night and delivered us back to Cottons. It was a fun way to top and tail the day.
I had originally wanted a Jeep Wrangler to transport me and my dad to the barn, but it turns out they are quite hard to come by. In the end I hired a couple of Mercedes from First Class Private Hire at the last minute.
Our day was captured by Paul and Kelly from Paul Joseph Photography. Would we recommend our photographers? Hell, yes! They are fab, and are bursting with energy and personality which is exactly what you need on your wedding day! James and I tend to be a little awkward in front of the camera, so we had some reservations about being papped all day. However, Paul and Kelly made us feel completely at ease and quickly became part of the furniture – half the time we forgot that they were there (in a good way!). They both got completely stuck in during the day. Paul was with us girls the morning of the wedding, and Kelly was with the boys, then they reunited to work their magic for the rest of the day. We had quite a lot of planned group shots to get through but they made them run so smoothly that they were over before we knew it, which was great as we didn’t feel like we were missing out at any point.
Paul and Kelly had suggested that we take some time out during the evening to get some photos together. Initially we weren’t convinced as we thought it sounded a bit cringe, but it was actually one of the best decisions we made. It allowed us ten minutes away from the crowds to spend some time together as Mr & Mrs, and we got some cracking photos out of it.
James and I both have a little crush on our florist – Keith from The Potting Shed in Alderley Edge. He is the coolest and calmest dude we have had the pleasure of working with. Neither James nor I knew a lot about flowers going in. The only thing I wanted was to try and incorporate thistles as a nod to my Scottish heritage. Keith suggested going for something scented and seasonal, so my unstructured bouquet incorporated pink peonies, pink roses, blue thistle, dill, rosemary, jasmine and greenery. My mum cried when it was delivered, so safe to say he got it spot on.
Keith also provided flowers for the table in the ceremony room as well as table flowers, which were displayed in glass jars alongside tealight lanterns. For his piece de resistance, his team created a fabulous ceiling arrangement which hung from the centre of the barn, again incorporating all the same flowers used for the wedding party.
We named each table after somewhere that we’d visited together. The table name was displayed on a postcard, which we placed on a mini easel with a pen so that our guests could write a note for us.
James works for his family’s business, Widdop & Co, which is a giftware supplier to the trade. We sourced some rather fab mason jars for our favours through Widdop and had them personalised with our nicknames and wedding date. We then spent hours filling the jars with penny sweets. We tagged each jar with our guest’s name so that they doubled up as a table setting. They went down a storm – and I have it on good authority that a number of our guests had demolished the lot before the starters arrived!
James grew up in Saddleworth, where his mum still lives. She recommended we try The Frostery in Uppermill for our wedding cake. The Frostery is run by Suzanne Thorp. She was the first and last person we met with – if you go for a tasting you’ll know why!
James and I met in London and lived there some years before relocating to Manchester. We wanted to incorporate our story in to the cake. I went along with an amateur sketch and Suzanne turned it in to a work of art. We had Big Ben showing 2pm (the time we got married) and two little Manchester bees crawling over brickwork. We had three tiers and a cutting cake: salted caramel, chocolate and limoncello.
Owen House work with two catering suppliers. We chose to work with Vanilla in All Seasons for the wedding breakfast as they went above and beyond to help us navigate our menu. They organised a tasting for us which was so much fun, though we could hardly move when we left. It also gave us a chance to meet some of the staff, all of whom were really attentive and helpful.
We had canapés after the ceremony, all washed down with the aid of a Prosecco truck (organised through Owen House). The canapés consisted of tiny Yorkshire puds with rare roast beef; croute of sun dried tomato with caramelized red onion and mozzarella cheese; and warm scotch quails egg with Manchester relish.
James and I wanted to mix our tables up with his family, my family and our friends. As such, we thought it would be a nice touch to have a sharing starter to kick-start the conversations. We both love cheese, so we had baked Camembert with garlic and white wine. It was served alongside kilners of smooth chicken liver pate, bramhall bakery breads and a selection of oil and dips.
For mains, we had pot-roasted shoulder of lamb with a parmesan crust, served with a rioja jus and crushed new potato. We also had a panache of green vegetables for the table to share. The vegetarian option was a vegetable suet pudding with roasted field mushrooms, red onion chutney and chive cream.
Dessert was always going to be a chocolate overload. We had a chocolate marquise with raspberry coulis served with fresh raspberries, meringue and a vanilla and chocolate tuile. Divine.
In the evening we put on a selection of hot sandwiches – sausage, bacon or chip!
Owen House always has a good selection of beers on tap, and had a Hawaiian long board which was fitting as that’s where we were headed on our honeymoon!
Entertainment-wise, we booked Paul Thornton to provide acoustic guitar music before, during and after the ceremony. He was fab to work with, and added a new song to his repertoire especially for my entrance! For the evening, we booked The Retrosettes. We researched a lot of very similar wedding bands when we first started looking, but the Retrosettes jumped out as they provided a little something different. They were amazing and the whole room was bouncing off their energy. They finished their second set to chants of ‘one more song’, which they dutifully provided.
We can’t thank the team at Owen House enough. From dealing with inquisitive parents to making sure that we were the first fed and watered on the day, they went above and beyond to make sure everything was perfect. They make everything look effortless, which is what drew us to them in the first place. Plus, their staff embody everything the venue stands for so it truly feels like a family atmosphere.
Seeing James’s little face at the end of the aisle was a perfect moment for me. Owen House had just changed the entrance format, so all of our guests could see me through the window as I walked down the side of the ceremony room before I entered. James was instructed to wait until he was given the nod before he could look down the aisle. It must’ve been torture – I’d have hated it!
The ceremony itself is also a memory I’ll cherish. We made the ceremony really personal and as a result it was quite emotional. My sister was a blubbery mess, my great aunt almost fell off her bench as she got up to do the reading, James’s dad and sister personalised their readings to provoke giggles and tears, and I couldn’t quite get James’s ring over his knuckle which provided yet another priceless moment. It was perfect, because it was ‘us’.
We flew to Hawaii via San Francisco for our honeymoon. Whilst in Hawaii we island hopped between Kauai, Oahu and Maui. We made the most of our time together to reflect on our big day with cocktails in hand, whilst also making time for a surfing lesson, a couple of snorkelling trips, a volcanic cycling safari and a waterfall trek. It was magical, largely thanks to our talented family friend Jane Eastwood who tailored the whole trip and pulled some strings along the way.
My top tip for other Brides Up North is, listen to your suppliers. You chose to work with them for a reason, and they really know their stuff.
Secondly, tell your story. Your wedding is about you and your partner bringing together all of your loved ones. A lot of people will have a lot of opinions and suggestions – but make sure the day speaks to both of your characters, as that’s what people are there to witness and celebrate.
And lastly, the North West is home to some incredible wedding suppliers – go forth and choose wisely!
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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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