November 21st, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth
For today’s real wedding, we’re escaping to beautiful Teesdale for Helen and John’s special day back in April, following their year-long engagement.
We could begin by talking about their enchanting venue, Lartington Hall, nestled in 75 acres of parkland, with its exquisite ballroom, chapel and gardens. We could even talk about the couple’s bold teal and purple colour scheme, with peacock feathers thrown into the mix. We might even share details of their scrumptious chocolate Guinness cake and the fact that the wedding also coincided with the groom’s birthday celebrations, making the occasion extra special.
But we just have to throw the spotlight on Helen’s stunning Vera Wang Odette dress – offering you lucky readers a glimpse into what we think is a true fairytale-inspired moment. This oh-so-pretty floor-length ball gown, named after the leading female character in Swan Lake, is utter perfection and a welcome reminder to all brides-to-be out there that it really is worth making a statement with your bridal look. Trust us, your wedding album will thank you later.
With images by Stan Seaton Photography.
helen says: Every year since we started dating we have gone to the Peak District in April for a long weekend, camping usually in fairly frosty weather, and 2016 was no exception. We had stopped on Eyam Moor to admire the view with not another soul in sight. Although beautiful, it was absolutely freezing, and I had already set off again when John called me back as he was ‘looking for his scarf’ in a bag, which concealed a Claddagh ring, which he had made with my birthstone as a proposal ring. He got down on one knee to ask the question and, of course, I said yes!
Our wedding date was a bit controversial. There was availability for the date exactly a year on from our engagement, but as it was John’s birthday the week after, he thought it would be a great idea to combine this with getting married on the same weekend! So, 29th April it was! It turned out perfectly as it meant John’s family and friends from Ireland could join us for a double celebration and a bank holiday Monday in the UK so everyone had some extra time recover.
I’m originally from the North East and it was my mum who had heard about our chosen venue, Lartington Hall, and all the work that owners John and Shona had put in to the restoration and developing such a beautiful venue and grounds. As soon as we walked into the Grand Corridor, we knew it was the venue for us.
Combining two special occasions and being able to celebrate in this private and stunning setting was a dream. We loved the freedom of being able to host different parts of our day across the rooms at Lartington; from the chapel ceremony, ballroom for our wedding breakfast and dancing the night away to rounding the night off (with whoever was left standing!) in the drawing room. We knew we were in safe hands with the team at Lartington, who ensured our wedding day ran seamlessly.
I have to credit my bridesmaid Jo for helping me when it came to our colour scheme! I’ve always loved bold colours, and John and I both like purple so that was our starting point, mixed with the organic natural forms of art nouveau, which I’ve always loved. That led us to peacock feathers so we added a teal to the purple along with silver accents. These ideas were carried through in the flowing lines of the sleepy S-shaped bouquets and the peacock feathers that featured in our stationery.
My mum is a fantastic seamstress and made her own wedding dress, as well as her sister’s wedding dress from scratch, but I didn’t want to put the mother-of-the bride under too much pressure leading up to the big day. And so, I eventually chose a Vera Wang dress called Odette, which was fitting as I have always loved ballet. My mum then hand-stitched embellishments to the front and back of the bodice. It was so much fun to wear!
John chose Roderick Charles London for a tailored three-piece suit with double-breasted waistcoat, incorporating our wedding colour in the accent of the fabric. His tie was purple to contrast with the groomsmen, who were in teal.
My three bridesmaids wore teal, hi-low skirts from Coast with silver tops to complement the deep shade of the skirts and for a slight twist to on the traditional bridesmaid dress look.
Kerry from Kerry Wedding Hair was on hand to get myself, my mum and bridesmaids ready for the day, I think her relaxed attitude rubbed off on us all and she was happy to dress everyone’s hair in any style we asked. I would definitely recommend her, in fact my chief bridesmaid has just booked Kerry for her wedding next year! Our makeup was by Emma, through Jo Leversuch of Make-up by Jo.
Having seen images that Stan Seaton had taken of Lartington Hall, we were delighted that he and Jane were available to photograph for our wedding day. It was fantastic to have both of them there to capture our day from different angles and they are so approachable and really made us feel at ease. I would definitely recommend them for timeless wedding images.
My flowers were from the very talented Kathryn Hume of Forget Me Not Flowers, who really understood the theme of the wedding. The sleepy S-shape of my bouquet complemented the flow of my dress, whilst the calla lilies and vivid purple orchids incorporated the colour I wanted. We also included bells of Ireland in the displays and in John’s buttonhole as a link to his heritage.
Kathryn also provided our centrepieces and flowers for the chapel flowers, all in keeping with the bouquets and buttonholes. A mix of high and low displays on the tables for our wedding breakfast really complemented the height of the ballroom and carried our wedding colours throughout the day. We didn’t have any additional decorations, other than dressing the tables, as the interior or Lartington speaks for itself and we didn’t want to detract from what was such a splendid setting.
We chose to make charitable donations in lieu of favours to two charities with personal meaning, the British Heart Foundation and Dogs Trust.
We had some other personal touches incorporated into the day. These included making chatterboxes (school-day throwback!) as icebreakers for our guests. We also had a photograph from our pre-wedding photo shoot surrounded by a mount for people to sign in place of a guest book. In memory of my grandma (and as my something old, borrowed and blue) I wore a sapphire and diamond ring that was hers.
When it came to the wedding cake, a favourite of mine and John’s is chocolate Guinness cake, so we had two of those, and two more traditional fruit-cakes decorated with art nouveau cake-lace all made by my skillful aunt and uncle. The cakes were topped with fresh flowers from Kathryn to link everything together.
Lartington Hall places emphasis on serving dishes that are created using fresh local produce. Four our wedding breakfast we chose ravioli of smoked ham hock with ham consommé to start, followed by braised blade of Teesdale beef with pomme puree, finishing on a white chocolate mousse with rosewater jelly, blackcurrant and vanilla macron and blackcurrant sorbet for dessert. Along with champagne for the reception and toasting, we drank Waddling Duck Sauvingnon Blanc and Parlez Vouz Malbec with our meal.
I love music and dancing so for the entertainment, we searched for a band that we could be sure would fill the floor and keep our guests dancing all night. We almost got more that we bargained for with Absolute Band! They were fantastic, the addition of a fiddle player and their repertoire of Irish songs in addition to great set of modern floor fillers was exactly what we were after. We also had live music from Jessica Avison for the ceremony and reception, whose beautiful voice and amenability to learn some specially requested songs really added to the atmosphere.
I would definitely recommend Lartington Hall to other couples, especially if they are looking for classic elegance, gourmet food and a personal service both in the run up to, and on the wedding day itself; you won’t have to worry about a thing. There are so many ways to customise your day, and being able to share the stunning surroundings exclusively with our own family and friends was another big plus for us. The option of a number of different spaces to use for different parts of a wedding was also a huge bonus, allowing the day to flow very naturally.
On reflection, it’s so hard to choose just one highlight. I loved being announced as Mr & Mrs Dooner as we entered the ballroom for the meal; seeing all of our friends and family around us. The time we had alone after the ceremony, just to be with each other for our first few minutes as husband and wife, was also very important. One of the funniest bits of the day was definitely when the best man orchestrated a surprise game of Mr & Mrs during his speech, with us sitting back to back, swapping shoes to indicate our answers. It was kept top secret so we really didn’t know what was going to happen or what questions were on the way.
The day after the wedding we went to Bowness on Windermere in the Lake District for a short minimoon. It was just what we needed to reflect back on the weekend before returning home. We’re currently looking forward to our main honeymoon travelling around Thailand later this year, which we’ve been busy planning since the wedding.
My top tip for other Brides Up North would be – focus on what you enjoy when planning your wedding day. If you’re relaxing and having fun – your guests will too!
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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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