December 11th, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth
Today’s love-struck couple, Jess and Craig got engaged 4,000 metres up the Rocky Mountains, but wanted to come back down to earth with an elegant garden themed wedding. And it was the stunning Eleven Didsbury Park – a luxury villa hotel close to Manchester – that ended up being their venue of choice, providing the enviable backdrop to their celebrations.
Keeping things understated and natural, the newlyweds went for a subtle sage colour scheme complemented by some rather gorgeous florals, including amnesia roses, blue thistle, white veronica and eucalyptus gunnii, not to mention plenty of wood, hessian and candles for decoration.
Though sticking to a strict budget, our savvy couple pulled together lots of special touches and treats, including an indulgent cake table (yes, that’s a whole table of cakes!), and we for one are bowled over by their special day.
With images by Brides Up North Sponsor, Nik Bryant Photography
jess says: Craig proposed at the very top of the Rocky Mountains, at 4,000m on Peak Eight of Breckenridge ski resort in March 2016. He pretended he wanted to take a photo of us and set up the GoPro, but in fact was filming. He got the whole proposal on film! It was a stunning sunny day, very windy and freezing cold, with the most incredible view. After proposing, Craig produced two small bottles of champagne and glasses, which he’d hidden in his backpack. He almost got frostbite in his fingers as a result of taking his gloves off to give me the ring and pour the champagne!
We got married on 30th July 2017. We wanted the wedding to be in the summer so that we could have a garden wedding or garden reception. We also chose a date that would mean that all of our close family and friends could be there.
We initially went to the open day at Didsbury House Hotel, and at the end of our visit they asked if we wanted to also see their sister venue Eleven Didsbury Park. We wandered down the road and when we saw the gardens, we completely fell in love with the idea of a garden wedding there.
We had planned to get married in the walled gardens of Eleven Didsbury Park Hotel, however in the end there’d been so much rain the week before that the ground was too soft. Instead we got married in the Blue Room of Didsbury House Hotel, which was pretty perfect and a beautiful back-up plan. We then had the reception back at Eleven Didsbury Park in the gardens there.
Neither of us are religious however I had a Jewish upbringing. We chose a Humanist ceremony as it allowed us to create a personal ceremony bespoke to us.
Our absolute best decision was using Hannah Wroe Gill as our Humanist Celebrant. It was the one thing we went well over budget on, but she created the most personal ceremony bespoke to us and which had all our guests in tears and talking about the ceremony afterwards.
We decided against having a strong theme. We felt that the venue itself had such great character and the gardens were beautiful in themselves. We planned a relaxed and understated garden wedding with personal touches and a natural feel.
We wanted the bridesmaids to look fantastic and feel comfortable in their dresses so we picked them out first before deciding on a colour scheme. With two brunettes and one redhead, sage green dresses from Little Mistress suited them best, so we went with that.
The guys then picked out the ties and pocket squares to match – they even took one of the dresses shopping with them to make sure they got it right – what absolute stars!
I picked out an intricate and delicate beaded lace dress by Annasul Y when I was with my mum at a sample sale at The White Closet bridal boutique in West Didsbury. I loved the vintage 1920’s feel to the dress with the heart-shaped lace detail at the back, and a long line of buttons and ribbon down the back. It was a very comfortable sheath style dress and easy to wear with a hidden zip so no faffing about with the buttons!
As it was a sample dress it was a size 12 and the boutique recommended going to Boutique Alterations in Bramhall. Tusneem was an absolute genius and carried out extensive alterations to the dress, including shortening the trail into a puddle trail so I could walk more comfortably in a garden setting. I absolutely loved the end result and it fit me perfectly!
Louise Pennington was my hair and makeup artist. She made me, my bridesmaids, my mum and step-mum all look amazing! She listened to our wishes to create a very classic and natural look for us all.
Craig and his two best men went bargain hunting at Cheshire Oaks designer outlet and put together brilliant outfits from a mix of stores: matching blue suits from Moss Bros, ties from TM Lewin, shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt, pocket squares from Reiss. We also got Craig soft leather brogue-style shoes with blue laces from House of Fraser (Berties).
On our wedding morning, I surprised Craig with a gift of bespoke handmade silver pebble cufflinks, also by Rosie Brown. He also wore his late grandfather’s pocket watch.
Craig got his best men gifts of pocket watches, meanwhile, I got my bridesmaids pearl and silver drop necklaces.
We were lucky enough to live only a couple of miles away from our wedding venue so we didn’t need to hire wedding transport. I based myself at the venue for the weekend with my family, which was nice and easy! Craig and his best men got ready at Craig’s home and then they drove over the venue in the morning.
We booked Nik Bryant Photography to capture our day – and would absolutely recommend him! He’s such a great guy and made us feel super comfortable. He’s a documentary style photographer so takes very few posed photos – we did a handful of family photos and then got on with enjoying our wedding reception! He took us away at different points in the day for extra shots and used different parts of the venue to create some amazing pictures.
Nik’s wife was pregnant and their baby was due on our wedding weekend so he was conscious of providing a top back-up plan in case he needed to leave the wedding suddenly – his second photographer was Matthew Grainger, who is in his own right a fantastic professional photographer with his own studio.
For our videography, we booked Michael Langley of Satin Pictures. We met Michael on Nik’s referral and were very quickly comfortable with him and liked his approach to filming the day. The end result was the most incredible cinematic style video. Michael put together a short video to show elements of the ceremony, which our evening guests were able to see as they arrived. We were really touched by this and thought it was a great idea! We got to relive the ceremony only hours later and our guests got to see a snippet of the video.
Originally, we didn’t budget for a videographer. Booking Michael was a late decision which we made only a few months before the wedding, but it was one of the best decisions we made!
Sian from The Flower Lounge in Didsbury supplied my bouquet, which included amnesia roses, blue thistle, white veronica, roma astrantia, pale pink waxflower, thlaspi green bell, eucalyptus gunnii and parvifolia.
My bridesmaids carried slightly smaller bouquets of the same flowers and the buttonholes and corsages used a selection of these too.
Sian placed vases on our large top table so that we could re-use our bouquets as flowers. We also re-used the little bunches of lavender and gypsophila from the aisle on the chairs for the reception. She also provided lots of little cut crystal vases of flowers dotted on the tables.
For our décor, we had hessian, lace table runners and lots of candles. A friend gave us lots of glass tea-light holders from their own wedding and we picked up rustic bark candleholders from a recent bride on Gumtree.
We were conscious of being careful with our budget as we had seven tables and thought the garden surroundings were a beautiful enough setting that didn’t need large centrepieces.
We made our own seating plan from an old wooden frame given to us by a lovely lady at an antique village. We kept meeting lovely people along our wedding planning journey who helped us create our special day.
We asked our friend Hannah, who is an artist and recent art school graduate, to create our wedding invites. She created a beautiful watercolour wreath save the date and invite. She even created a very cute initial logo for us and our own personal font designed by hand.
For our favours, one of our close friends gifted us their homemade whisky and vanilla fudge, which we wrapped up like little presents for each guest with labels and tags. We also gave our guests miniatures of spirits that we liked. We had put money behind the bar for mixers but were surprised by how many guests got into the ‘spirit’ of things and were shotting the little bottles at the table!
We knew we didn’t want to have a traditional wedding cake. Instead we went to our favourite place for cakes – And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon – who are based in West Didsbury. We met with Annemiek for a consultation and picked our favourite cakes to create a cake table. They also provided us with props to create a beautiful table so that the cakes looked their best. Some of the cakes we chose included strawberry Eton Mess, lemon meringue pie and blueberry cheesecake.
One of the reasons we booked Eleven Didsbury Park was that we knew the food would be fantastic – and it didn’t disappoint! The canapés in the reception were so good that I heard some weren’t making it past the guests nearest the kitchen! We had selected six canapés per guest so there was plenty to go around.
For the main meal we had a barbecue, which was a nice relaxed middle-ground between a formal sit-down dinner and the more informal style of a buffet. We steered away from the usual barbecue choices of burgers and sausages, and instead chose options like minute steak, lamb koftas, and then different kebabs – salmon teriyaki, trout, soy and honey chicken, halloumi.
Our cake table was our dessert – another way to save a bit of money without compromising on quality. We’d been to too many weddings where the cake wasn’t eaten!
As entertainment at both our ceremony and our reception we had a trio from Northern String Quartet. They had the most incredible catalogue of songs that we could select from. We spent hours picking the music for the 2.5 hours that we had booked them for.
At the garden reception we had croquet on the grass which our friends had good fun with. For the barbecue and evening party, Craig had spent weeks putting together his perfect playlists which we played on the venue’s sound system.
Eleven Didsbury Park does not allow amplified music so a live band was out (you can have a band if you book Didsbury House Hotel). We decided against booking a live band as we wanted our guests to be able to sit and talk through the night and old friends and family to catch up. We still had a good dance on the little dance floor to Craig’s playlist of all our favourite tunes!
Following our wedding, we would absolutely recommend our choice of venue to other couples. Jenny, the event coordinator, was fantastic and helped us create our day within a very tight budget. Despite being a top-end boutique hotel, she always kept our budget needs in mind and didn’t put any pressure on us to exceed our limitations. No hard upselling or anything of the like. Then on the day itself the wedding coordinator Helen was incredible! She orchestrated everything perfectly and looked after us so well.
The ceremony was my highlight; walking down the aisle to Craig and seeing his reaction when he saw me. We met through rock climbing and festivals so he doesn’t usually see me with professional hair, makeup and a stunning dress! We had written our own vows so sharing those with each other was very special. It was a beautiful ceremony and the atmosphere in the room was so full of love.
We are currently planning our honeymoon to Thailand!
Our top tip for other Brides Up North came from our celebrant – ask the venue to arrange a little room for you to disappear into after the ceremony. Take five to ten minutes with your new wife/husband just to enjoy each other’s company and take it all in. The day flies by so make sure you stop to be in the present and appreciate it.
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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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